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Preserve vital telehealth in Maryland | READER COMMENTARY

The UnitedHealthcare Virtual Primary Care service enables eligible members in employer-sponsored plans to visit virtually with health care providers for various types of care, including wellness, routine and chronic condition management. (UnitedHealthcare handout/Associated Press).
The UnitedHealthcare Virtual Primary Care service enables eligible members in employer-sponsored plans to visit virtually with health care providers for various types of care, including wellness, routine and chronic condition management. (UnitedHealthcare handout/Associated Press).

“I’m cold. I’m cold.” The pleading words of my late father-in-law during in-person visits to his doctors have stayed with me following his passing. Our preparations for his outings were always thoughtful. But at 95, no amount of bundling him up seemed to bring him complete comfort. Trips left him exhausted for days to follow.

Then we began using telehealth. It was a godsend to meet his needs. Suddenly, everything became easier and more comfortable. He could remain warm resting in his bed while we brought the phone or computer to him. He was able to visit with his regular doctor and feel safe knowing he was in familiar, good hands. Especially as we worked through dementia and months of end-of-life care, telehealth became not only a better solution, it became essential to my father-in-law’s well-being.

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My experiences as a primary elder caregiver — coupled with my three decades as a registered respiratory therapist, community health volunteer and American Heart Association Basic Life Support and Heartsaver instructor and volunteer — make me certain that telehealth is essential for our communities. That is especially true for communities of color like my own where adequate health care access is often limited.

We must act now to be sure all insurance provider cover audio-only and video telehealth options. We must support, and ask our legislators to support House Bill 123 and Senate Bill 3 to protect telehealth for all. You can help by joining the American Heart Association’s “You’re the Cure” network and taking action today.

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There are many ways in which telehealth increases access to care. Telehealth eliminates the need for travel, especially for people who may not have access to personal transportation. For folks dealing with chronic diseases, people who rely on oxygen as an example, finding practical ways to readily access public transportation — and to afford it — may be nearly impossible. The pandemic has exacerbated these barriers to health care access. Telehealth by phone or computer allows people to practice prevention and chronic disease management under the guidance of qualified health care professionals, reducing strain on the need for emergency care during this critical moment and beyond. The elderly and those nearing end-of-life are especially positively impacted by access to telehealth.

If you need a reason to support access to audio and video telehealth, I ask you to recall my father-in-law and the many like him. We can’t leave our most vulnerable community members in the cold when it comes to access to health care. Telehealth brings prevention, chronic-disease management and wellbeing to the warmth of home (”Don’t end telehealth benefits for Medicaid patients while pandemic is still strong,” July 1, 2020).

Please join You’re the Cure to begin taking action and contacting your lawmakers today.

Shuron Abdullah, Bowie

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