ICYMI: Expert Says Virtual Care Could Decrease Medicare Spending On Climate-Related Health Conditions

Jul 10, 2023

As CBO Anticipates Increased Climate-Related Health Costs, Occupational Therapist Says Virtual Care Can Diminish Impact

In case you missed it, while the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) anticipates increased spending on climate-related health conditions, occupational therapist Pam Toto says telehealth helps eliminate barriers to care, subsequently reducing costs, according to an interview with Inside Telehealth

The CBO’s recent 2023 Long-Term Budget Outlook discusses the “unanticipated effects of climate change.” As the outlook says, “On net, CBO expects climate change to reduce economic growth and increase budget deficits… For instance, spending on Medicare and other health programs is expected to rise amid an increase in climate-related health conditions, such as illnesses related to heat exposure or air pollution and injuries related to storms, floods, and wildfires.”

In response, Toto told Inside Telehealth’s Emma Beavins, “However, with improved technology and the possibility of telehealth, the effects of chronic health conditions and disabilities are lessened… Virtual care offers the option for individuals to still have their health needs met, even if they aren’t living in an ideal place.”

Toto goes on to note that, “telehealth reduces the need to interact with non-ideal environments, so the health condition’s effect on an individual is lessened.” It is also “an option for people who can’t move to a cleaner [place],” Toto continues. “[Telehealth] eliminates some of the contextual factors that present barriers to people getting the best care that they need.”

Toto’s perspective aligns with previous studies showcasing how telehealth utilization helps protect the environment and patients. For example, one study of 23,228 total patients who traveled over 60 minutes to their care appointments found that they saved 2.7 million kilograms of carbon dioxide when using telehealth in place of traditional care.

Congress must act now to permanently safeguard telehealth access and reduce spending on climate-related health conditions.

Read the CBO’s full budget outlook HERE, Inside Telehealth’s interview HERE, and learn more about how Congress can act to permanently protect telehealth access HERE.


Telehealth Access for America (TAFA) is a public education campaign supported by leaders in health care committed to better care, expanded patient choice, and protecting access to critical telehealth services. Learn more and take action today at www.telehealthaccessforamerica.org.