Telemedicine is saving lives, new bill will expand coverage to more RGV residents

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RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — Health experts say the telemedicine industry is booming in the Rio Grande Valley, meanwhile, families and health professionals say it’s saving lives.

Now a new bill in the Texas House, HB4 could expand telemedicine services to more in the community.

“It keeps us safe. It keeps us away from the harms that are out there currently, with the different variations of the COVID,” said Ruth Garcia, a Mission Resident.

Ruth Garcia and one of her sons suffer from a pre-existing heart condition and both have had heart surgery. Garcia says doctors have warned here catching COVID-19 could be deadly to either of them.

“Basically he is looking at a death sentence. I can plan his funeral,” said Garcia.

During the pandemic, waivers were issue to expand telemedicine and telehealth services, but those will only be in effect while there is an emergency order. House Bill 4 aims to make those waivers permeate.

“So that even after the pandemic, the new flexibilities to get telemedicine and telehealth services will remain there in perpetuity,” said Charles Miller, Senior Policy Advisor for Texas 2036.

HB4 would also expand services to vulnerable populations and expand services to Medicaid patients and other public benefit programs like CHIP.

“We know that when we are able to provide telemedicine and telehealth services to those populations, that they get much better services,” said Miller. ‘We’ve seen the emergency room intakes have gone down when children are able to access services by telemed and telehealth because they are seeing providers more frequently.” 

Nurse practitioner April Lopez with the Lopez Family Clinic says telemedicine has taught health care professionals to do things differently.

“It has really saved a lot of lives. It has really revolutionized the way we do healthcare now,” said Lopez.

Lopez says telemedicine is the new and now, and will only get bigger and better. Lopez adds telemedicine has increased access to care.

“Patients who really didn’t want to come out in a pandemic for a refill. Patients who needed something like a refill, who basically needed labs or diabetics that were controlled stuff like that. We were able to everybody care, even patients who lived far away, as long as they had access to smartphones,” said Lopez.

For Ruth Garcia, she says she hopes telemedicine is here to stay, so she won’t have to deal with the worry and stress of catching COVID.

 “So I’ve chosen to do telemedicine to reduce that risk because you know a child is supposed to bury their parent, not a parent burying their child,” said Garcia. 

HB4 received final approval today by the Texas House with a vote of 145-0. The bill will now head to the Texas Senate.

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