As many Americans test positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and numbers continue to rise throughout the United States, it’s quite evident that the pandemic is spreading at alarming rates. The health, safety, and welfare of older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease are extremely vital during this COVID-19 public health emergency.

Expanded Medicare Coverage for Telehealth Services

Most people with Medicare end up being higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illnesses. To keep Medicare beneficiaries as safe as possible and progressively respond to the current public health emergency, Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services. This unprecedented action will encourage Medicare beneficiaries to stay home to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19. Medicare will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telemedicine services for beneficiaries residing in all fifty states and DC.

Telehealth, also known as telemedicine, and other virtual services, use digital information and communication technologies. From computers, tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices, telehealth provides patients the chance to access healthcare services remotely and manage your healthcare.

The technologies can be used from the comfort of your home. Your doctor uses technologies on his or her end to improve or support the health care services they provide to you. For example, doctors can use mobile health apps and wearable monitoring devices to track your vitals and give alerts on needed care.

Some services that have been expanded by Medicare for telehealth covered services include:

  • Availability of a broader range of communication tools (including smartphones)
  • Ability to interact with a range of providers, including doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists

What’s Covered with Medicare’s Expanded Telehealth Services?

Medicare beneficiaries can receive a specific set of services through telehealth, including evaluation and management visits (common office visits), mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings without a copayment if you have Medicare. All of these expansions will help ensure you’re able to visit your doctor from your home so that you won’t have to leave your house to go to a doctor’s office or hospital. Leaving your house for these types of activities puts you and others at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Other important information to keep in mind when using telehealth services during this pandemic include:

  • Medicare Part B pays for “virtual check-ins.” These include brief, virtual services with your physician or certain practitioners where the communication isn’t related to a medical visit within the previous seven days and doesn’t lead to a medical visit within the next 24 hours (or soonest appointment available).
  • Medicare Advantage plans may also reimburse you for telehealth services. Check with the provider directly for their telehealth guidelines.
  • Before using telehealth services, you’re required to consent verbally to using virtual check-ins. Also, your doctor is required to document that consent in your medical record before you use this service. You pay your usual Medicare coinsurance and deductible for these telehealth services.
  • Online patient portals are covered by Medicare. These portals allow you to communicate with your doctors without going to the doctor’s office. Similar to virtual check-ins, you’re required to initiate these individual communications.
  • If you don’t have access to interactive audio-video technology needed for Medicare telehealth services or choose not to use it even if offered by your practitioner, Medicare allows you to use an audio-only phone for these services.
  • For full visits with your doctor, communication technology is allowed to be used. Also, you can get these visits at rural health clinics and federally qualified health clinics. Medicare pays for many medical visits through this telehealth benefit.

Bottom Line

During this pandemic, it’s highly recommended that Medicare beneficiaries use telehealth services for situations such as routine health care, like wellness visits; medication consultation; dermatology (skincare); eye exams; nutrition counseling; and mental health counseling.

Telehealth can ultimately serve as a lifeline by increasing social distancing while avoiding additional negative consequences from delayed preventive, chronic, or routine care. What’s best, you’ll receive the same quality of care through telehealth services as you’d get during an in-person visit.

If you’re interested in more information about Medicare’s telehealth insurance coverage, feel free to fill out the form or give us a call anytime to ask any questions that may be lingering. We guarantee you that your licensed agent is focused first and foremost on providing you with information with zero pressure to enroll in a plan.