Medicare began covering a broad array of telehealth services during this coronavirus pandemic. And, older adults and people with disabilities are taking full advantage of this new benefit, reports Rebecca Pifer for Healthcare Dive.
It is truly extraordinary how quickly telehealth services have taken off for people with Medicare. In just one week in April, nearly 1.3 million people with Medicare received telehealth services. In one week in March, 11,000 people took advantage of telehealth services.
Part of the reason for this enormous growth in telehealth services is that Medicare now pays for phone calls between patients and doctors. And, its payment rates during the pandemic are quite high–around $46 for a five to ten-minute call, according to a researcher at the Urban Institute, up from $14.
Right now, Medicare coverage of an extensive array of telehealth services is only available during the pandemic. In addition to phone calls, Medicare’s telehealth benefit includes coverage for care from doctors who are out of state. But, HHS is exploring the possibility of extending coverage beyond the pandemic and possibly permanently. CMS Administrator Seema Verma has indicated that at least some services will be made permanent.
For older adults, in particular, telehealth services are a godsend at this time. Older adults are especially at risk of experiencing severe complications from COVID-19. Being able to get care without having to leave their homes and expose themselves to others is extremely valuable.
Until the pandemic, Medicare only covered telehealth services in the most limited of instances. It covered some telehealth for people in rural communities and it did not cover telehealth services when people were in their homes. In 2016, a total of 90,000 people with traditional Medicare received telehealth services.
Here’s more from Just Care:
- Coronavirus: For older adults, wearing gloves presents more risks than benefits
- The Benefits of Telehealth During a Pandemic–and Beyond
- Coronavirus: Medicare coverage
- Coronavirus: Sanders’ legislation would pay for everyone’s care during this pandemic through Medicare
- Coronavirus: Likely to worsen a retirement crisis