As Patients Embrace Telemedicine, Health Insurers Must Act
COMMENTARY

December 22, 2020by David Panzirer, Trustee at the Helmsley Charitable Trust
David Panzirer is a father of two children living with type 1 diabetes.

Virtual care is the fix for a lot of what’s broken with healthcare in America today. As patients embrace the conveniences of telehealth, medical professionals are recognizing that the pandemic model is here to stay. It’s time for the insurance industry to do the same. 

While a few private insurers have pledged to continue to cover telehealth services at pandemic levels through the end of the year, some of the nation’s biggest insurers remain quiet. The reason is simple. They view telemedicine as a way to save money by reimbursing less than they would for an in-person visit. This approach is short-sighted and shameful.   

The COVID-19 pandemic thrust telemedicine into the spotlight and laid bare an unfair playing field when it comes to health disparities, including racial and ethnic disparities, and limitations for those living in rural America. In 2020, geography should not dictate access to specialists or patient outcomes. Yet it still does, even though technology exists to radically level the playing field for those living in rural areas. We need to utilize it – and payers should help pave the way.  

The reality is, doctors do not need in-person visits more than once a year with patients who have chronic conditions – including insulin-dependent diabetes – that are well-managed, especially when virtual support is available. Still, health insurers require these office visits to justify equipment and medication changes. This is a waste of time and money for all involved and adds great risk for those who need to minimize exposure during COVID-19. 

We should be tailoring care to those who need it and stop forcing a one-size-fits-all approach that is clearly failing. In the U.S., we treat symptoms, not people, and try to do it as cheaply as possible. We spend more money on healthcare per capita than all other developed countries, while outcomes remain mediocre at best. We talk a lot about “patient-centricity” and “personalized medicine,” but these buzz words rarely exist in reality, especially with diabetes care and other chronic conditions.  

Now is the time to embrace this new normal, to usher in a better era in healthcare, and to convince insurers they should continue paying for virtual care.

Now is the time to invest in new models of care that embrace technology to develop a permanent and sustainable infrastructure for telehealth. The payoff will be healthier people who may be less susceptible to the ravages of infectious diseases like COVID-19. Now is the time to embrace this new normal, to usher in a better era in healthcare, and to convince insurers they should continue paying for virtual care.  

COVID-19 is inflicting irreparable pain on the country and we grieve every day for the more than 317,000 Americans we’ve lost. In their memory, let us seize this moment and never go back. This crisis presents a rare opportunity to improve healthcare in our country dramatically and transform it for the better for generations to come. To get it done, we need insurance executives to finally put people before profits.  


David Panzirer is a Trustee at the Helmsley Charitable Trust and the father of two children living with type 1 diabetes.

Opinions

Make America Good Again
Opinions
Make America Good Again
January 20, 2021
by Make America Good Again

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take office today, their charge is simple: return normalcy and stability to Washington. After four years of a Trump-lead cult that sapped our country of its dignity at home and respect abroad, it’s time for America to remind everyone what’s... Read More

Politics and Governing Should Be Boring
Opinions
Politics and Governing Should Be Boring

A lot of my friends on both sides of the aisle are eloquently touching on the meaning of Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol, so I’m going to try and cover things I’m not seeing in the news but that should be considered. First, when the president and... Read More

So What Now?
Opinions
So What Now?
January 10, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

So what now? A few things, actually. But before we get to them, we must recognize last week’s insurrectionist rampage at the Capitol for what it was. It is being seen, and not wrongly, as the angry response of delusional right-wingers lied into believing a presidential... Read More

Seditious Members of Congress Must Be Held Accountable
Opinions
Seditious Members of Congress Must Be Held Accountable
January 4, 2021
by Robert B. Reich

I’ve been in or around politics for over a half-century now, and I never imagined how low and loony the Republican Party would become. Twelve Republican senators say they will object to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on Wednesday when Congress meets to formally certify it. They... Read More

I Miss Going to the Movies
Opinions
I Miss Going to the Movies
December 30, 2020
by John Kass

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,” said Marcus Tullius Cicero. Old Marcus could have been talking about coping with these pandemic lockdowns, but he wasn’t. Happily, I have a home library, but no garden. And I can’t possibly go... Read More

Georgia's Long History of Voter Suppression
Opinions
Georgia's Long History of Voter Suppression

Now that Donald Trump's baseless lies about voter fraud have been summarily dismissed by the courts, perhaps some attention can be paid to the true threat to free and fair elections: not voter fraud but systemic and massive voter suppression. Voter suppression, not voter fraud, could... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top