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Trump administration acts to address some needs of older adults during the coronavirus pandemic

Written by Diane Archer

With the coronavirus spreading quickly in the US and few federal efforts to date to contain it, the Trump administration is acting to address some of the health care needs of older adults. Specifically on the health care front, it is giving the states greater flexibility to manage Medicaid and make it easier for older adults to receive telehealth services. The administration is also supporting federal legislation that would give cash payments to all Americans.

The Trump administration now recognizes that the¬†health of older adults, and people with low-incomes, along with every other American, is on the line. And, smart action can protect the public health. China’s coronavirus containment policies, including facilitating testing and treatment, has kept the number of people infected with the virus from growing. Yet, it continues to grow exponentially in the US and in many other countries.

To help slow down the spread of the virus and help get older adults and people with low-incomes health care, states can opt to simplify the process for enrolling in Medicaid and expand their Medicaid provider networks. They can seek a special federal waiver called an “1135 waiver.” Florida and California are already acting to get these 1135 waivers and many other states are in process.

In addition, Medicare is now covering a broad array of telehealth services so that older adults can get care without having to leave their homes. Until now, Medicare only covered a limited number of telehealth services in special circumstances, for example, for people in rural communities.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has also waived the requirement that people have prior relationships with a particular doctor in order to receive telehealth services–remote care via telephone or internet– from a doctor. Moreover, HIPAA privacy rules have been relaxed so that doctors can “see” patients via FaceTime and Skype without fear of being penalized.

Lastly, the Trump administration is now recommending federal legislation that would have the federal government provide direct cash payments of $2,000 in two installments (on April 6 and May 18) to all Americans with incomes under a certain level which would help them pay their rent and buy basic necessities. Congress is working on a $1 trillion stimulus bill, $500 billion of which would cover the cost of these payments. The rest would support small and large businesses and more.

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