Looking Ahead: Telehealth and National Debt

Blog Post
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

On the latest Facing the Future, I was joined by former U.S. Representative Charlie Stenholm, Cole Stenholm, a Texas A&M law student, former Concord Coalition intern and the Congressman’s grandson, Director of Health Care for the Progressive Policy Institute, Arielle Kane, and Concord’s Executive Director, Bob Bixby. We discussed fiscal responsibility, lessons learned from Congress, generational perspectives on the national debt and health care innovations, like telehealth. 

[Note: Portions of this week's Facing the Future can be seen in the video clips posted below.]

Kane described telehealth as simply health care provided via some form of telecommunication, such as over the phone or computer, and that it has been around for a long time. However, it has dramatically increased in usage since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. 

“At the beginning, we saw the federal government and states encourage people to delay so-called elective care,” Kane said. “Meaning, if it wasn’t an emergency, don’t go see the doctor in order to both prevent the spread and preserve PPE.” 

“People turned to their computers and their phones to access care that they needed, and it has really taken off,” she added. 

Kane explained that prior to emergency orders for the pandemic, there were regulations within Medicare and other systems limiting the use of telehealth. 

“But I think the biggest change has been reimbursements and creating a market incentive for providers to deliver care,” she said. “If we go back, if this emergency declaration expires, and we go back to pre-COVID laws, I do think people will continue using telehealth at a higher rate, but there are some policy changes we could do to make it easier and also not as expensive, like not paying the same price as an in-person visit.” 

Generally, Kane said that there is bipartisan support to continue the expanded use of telehealth. 

Read more of Kane’s research on telehealth by clicking here

 

Congressman Stenholm shared his thoughts on what fiscal responsibility should look like right now for policymakers. 

“Right now, with the COVID-19 challenge before us, this is not the time to do conventional budgeting,” the Congressman said. “We have a very serious emergency facing our country.” 

Although he emphasized that it is the wrong time for the “usual” conversations on fiscal policy, Congressman Stenholm said it is the right time for policymakers to look ahead and think about what they are going to do and how they are going to do it when it comes to addressing unsustainable trends in the budget. 

“When you look at the facts on where we are on spending and on revenue, we don’t have enough revenue to fund the government that Congress has said they want,” he said. “That has been one of the major contributors to the debt exploding pre-COVID-19.” 

“We’re going to have to start seriously looking at paying for the amount of government we want, and reducing the size of government and unnecessary spending, but it’s going to have to be both,” the Congressman said.

Cole Stenholm shared his views on why fiscal responsibility still matters and why younger generations should care about the nation’s mounting debt. 

“With fiscal responsibility today, what it means is first acknowledging that we have a responsibility to begin with,” Stenholm said. “We have this $26 trillion dollar number just hanging out there … as a 25 year old, I’m worried about that going down the road.” 

“The challenge is getting people to actually care about the national debt as an issue,” he said. “It’s just so mind boggling to see the number $26,000,000,000,000 … the issue is so complex, it touches so many different areas, we have to discuss them, we have to ask questions, we have to wrestle with them.” 

 

Hear more on Facing the Future. I host the program each week on WKXL, NHTalkRadio.com (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join me and my guests as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders and elected officials. Past broadcasts are available here. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Play Music or with an RSS feed. Follow Facing the Future on Facebook and watch videos from past episodes on The Concord Coalition YouTube channel.