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Telehealth could play a vital role in confronting coronavirus

A letter to the editor of the Hartford Courant. Originally published here.

The new coronavirus, Covid-19, is presenting significant challenges for health care systems and providers globally. The situation changes daily, with more people infected in more countries. The CDC warns the time to elevate readiness is now, as it is “not if, but when” the virus spreads throughout the country.

As front-line providers, Community Health Centers care for special populations — those among the most vulnerable in Connecticut. Under the best of circumstances, our patients face numerous obstacles to obtaining medical and behavior health services. Covid-19 will very likely present many challenges to our patient population, as potential quarantines and other public health measures may restrict movement and access to health care facilities. For patients with anxiety and other medical and behavioral health issues, the consequences of isolation and lack of access to their providers will have significantly adverse consequences.

Given the extraordinary measures potentially needed to contain the spread of Covid-19, we urge the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services to exercise her discretion and authorize payment for telehealth visits for Medicaid recipients. Private insurance covers telehealth costs, and the poor deserve the same access to care, especially now.

We should leverage technology to strengthen our front line primary care providers in both the public and private sectors.

Mark Masselli, Middletown

COVID-19 tests are available! Call 475-241-0740 or click for more information.