This week Is Telehealth Awareness Week, which is a great opportunity to promote a healthcare system where people have access to safe, effective, and affordable care when and where they need it. While this is an important issue for The Pill Club (we’re a digital health company, after all!) there’s more at stake than good healthcare policy. Telehealth is about racial, economic, and reproductive justice. And if you care about equality, we want you to get involved with telehealth expansion. Here’s why:
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, our healthcare system was riddled with disparities. Studies show that despite improvements in overall health across the country, minorities and poor people experience a lower quality of healthcare. They are less likely to receive routine medical care, more likely to live far away from a healthcare provider, and face higher rates of disease and death.
Then COVID-19 hit, which exacerbated these same systemic inequalities. But something else happened, too: Congress waived rules and regulations around telehealth, leading to an emergency experiment where patients received better and more affordable access to healthcare right at their fingertips.
That’s a great first step forward, right? But here’s the problem: Those flexibilities that have allowed telehealth services to flourish during the pandemic are set to expire at the end of 2021. When it does, millions of Americans risk losing access to the care they have come to depend on over the past year and a half. And who is most at risk when this happens? People of color, poor people, and people who live far from their healthcare provider, if they have one at all. In other words, the same underserved communities that have been left out of our healthcare system for far too long will bear the burden. We cannot allow ourselves to go backwards; the extension and permanency of these waivers will save lives.
We do want to be clear though: Telehealth is not a one-and-done solution for healthcare disparities. While there is much more to be done to create a truly equal healthcare system (including expanding broadband infrastructure), the flexibilities offered during the pandemic drastically increased health care access. This is good for patients, good for providers, and good for society.
At The Pill Club, we believe access to quality healthcare should be a basic right. That’s why we’re joining industry leaders and patient advocates to push Congress and the Biden administration to preserve the pandemic-fueled expansion of telehealth that has transformed how millions of Americans see their doctor. And that’s why we’re calling on you to get involved, too; it is going to take all of us.
How can you do that? First, look up who your elected members of Congress are HERE. This will give you their names, phone numbers, and links to their websites where you can find out where to call or email them. Second, make your voice heard. Tell them that you care about telehealth expansion and want to see them take meaningful action toward protecting access to healthcare by making COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities permanent. Maybe your own life was changed because of these waivers; don’t be shy about sharing your story! We’ve put a sample script below to inspire you. Third, get in touch with three friends and ask them to do the same.
Accessible, affordable healthcare should not be a luxury, it should be the norm for everyone. One day, it will be. And we’re building that reality today. As we kick off Telehealth Awareness Week, we hope you’ll join us.
Dear (Your Member of Congress):
My name is (Your Name) and I am your constituent.
Thank you for expanding telehealth opportunities to access primary care and medical services during the pandemic.
The flexibilities that Congress secured through the CARES Act are life changing (and lifesaving) to thousands of Americans and their families. These flexibilities especially helped those in rural healthcare deserts, low-income families and individuals, and communities of color--groups historically left out of the American healthcare system for far too long.
As December nears and the expiration of these waivers threatens to take back the care so many Americans have come to depend on, I urge you to take immediate action and make these flexibilities permanent. As a young person in need of contraceptive care, access to telehealth providers like The Pill Club have been a lifeline for me. Receiving quality healthcare should not depend on where you live, how much money you make, or who you are as a person. Easy and affordable access to healthcare is a fundamental right, and investing in telehealth is an easy step toward creating a truly equitable healthcare system in our country.
Please do the right thing, and urge your colleagues to do the same. Thank you in advance for your support.