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Depressed? The Government Is Making It Harder to Access Quality Care

May 11, 2023

You’re depressed and struggling. You’ve been searching for a psychiatrist for months and you’ve finally found the perfect fit. You’re getting access to the care you need and you’re doing it from the comfort of your own home.

Things are looking up…but not for long, because the government is about to reimpose strict regulations on your provider-patient relationship.

It happened to me—and I’m not alone.

The COVID-19 Emergency and Public Health Emergency ends today, May 11, 2023, effectively changing telehealth laws, which allow Americans to access high-quality medical care from their own home using a computer, smartphone, or landline. The Drug Enforcement Administration has filed for an extension of telehealth flexibilities beyond the Public Health Emergency, but things are still uncertain. That means that right now, people like me could either be forced to find a new doctor, or have to travel across the country to keep their existing care.

This harsh reality hit me last month when I got an email from my Georgia psychiatrist saying that on May 11, laws related to the prescription of controlled substances (such as stimulants, ketamine, and benzodiazepines) will change and patients will either need to travel to Georgia for one in-person visit to continue receiving care or find a new psychiatrist. Neither option is an easy feat. Even with the prescribing rule on hold for now, your mental healthcare remains uncertain.

You can imagine my disappointment when I received this email. I’m a Colorado resident, and I would need to travel 1,417 miles to continue getting the care and prescriptions I need, which have been indispensable for me and my mental health journey.

Unfortunately, my story is not unique. This is the reality for thousands of Americans.

The COVID-19 crisis demonstrated like never before the benefits of telehealth—and showed the nation just how irrational past rules limiting telehealth were. During the pandemic, the federal government eased up on rules and regulations regarding telehealth services so that more Americans could access them. However, most states failed to make these flexibilities permanent, including Colorado.

It’s patients and their medical professionals, not bureaucrats, who are best equipped to make healthcare decisions. That’s why laws like the one the Goldwater Institute passed in Arizona in 2021—the nation’s most comprehensive telehealth reform, making the state’s temporary telehealth flexibilities permanent—are so important. This legislation permits out-of-state physicians to provide telehealth care to thousands of patients in the Grand Canyon State—transforming their quality of life as they know it.

Every single American deserves to access high-quality medical care free from unnecessary government regulations, regardless of what state they live in. State lawmakers across the country have an obligation, a duty, and a responsibility to follow Arizona’s lead and nix one-size-fits-all rules that restrict the availability of healthcare services to patients like me.

In the United States, there are 350 individuals for every one mental health provider. It’s truly a wonder how I or other Americans have found a provider that best suits our needs. Every state already has a severe or high shortage of mental health providers, and over the next couple of years, the crisis will continue to intensify. Thousands of patients will struggle—unnecessarily.

We deserve better. We deserve the freedom to choose. We deserve telehealth.

Fiona Baum is the Digital Communications Associate at the Goldwater Institute.



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