Trump Expands Telehealth Benefits for Medicare Beneficiaries During COVID-19

The Trump Administration has expanded Medicare Telehealth coverage that will enable beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility. The Trump administration and public-health officials are urging consumers to use telehealth services to receive remote treatment, fill prescriptions, and get medical attention during the new coronavirus pandemic. Beginning on March 6, 2020, Medicare will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries residing across the entire country.

Trump administration plan

“The Trump Administration is taking swift and bold action to give patients greater access to care through telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Trump’s Medicare and Medicaid Chief, Seema Verma. “These changes allow seniors to communicate with their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility so that they can limit risk of exposure and spread of this virus. Clinicians on the frontlines will now have greater flexibility to safely treat our beneficiaries.”

The goal is to keep people with symptoms at home and to practice social distancing if their condition does not warrant more intensive hospital care. 

Almost 80% of hospitals in the U.S. have some sort of telehealth service.

Telehealth is designed to make doctors and other front-line providers more accessible and to maximize the number of patients they can treat by encouraging patients with unrelated ailments, such as diabetes, to seek care online. 

Physicians who are wary of their own health, such as experiencing a cough, slight fever, or other COVID-19-like symptoms can remain helpful via telehealth. 

“I am not seeing patients out of caution and I don’t want any patients exposed to coronavirus,” a Mississippi doctor, Dr. Justin Turner said

Dr. Turner is using Telehealth to treat patients, while he keeps his distance from the office.

“Most of our offices have software where they can see patients. Unfortunately, every patient does not have technology to have access to a computer or iPhone or iPad,” Turner said.

For those patients without access to technology, a simple phone call will do.

How does Telehealth work?

Technology such as email, videoconferencing, video chat services, like Skype and Facetime, and phone calls enable patients to get care remotely. Responses from healthcare professionals can either be provided in real time, for instance via webcam, or by directing individuals’ questions to answers that are already online.

How do I make an appointment/find a remote provider?

Check your provider’s website or check with your health insurer on how to access telehealth services. Individuals can also go directly to sites like Telehealth.com. Be aware that you may experience longer wait times due to the current high demand.

Does Medicare cover telehealth?

Medicare will cover telehealth services and Medicare Advantage plans may waive or reduce cost sharing. Insurance plans may also cover telehealth, if it is provided directly by a doctor or hospital. Copays or other out-of-pocket charges may apply.

For those without Medicare and who pay directly out of pocket for the entire cost of a direct-to-consumer visit, prices may vary $50 to $80 a visit. Also, there may be an annual membership fee.

Can telehealth providers write prescriptions?

Yes, doctors can send prescriptions directly to a local pharmacy via telehealth. 

Can telehealth providers treat Coronavirus?

Healthcare providers can not diagnose a Coronavirus infection during a telehealth visit, but they can help to coordinate testing, according to the American Telemedicine Association, offer self-care and quarantine tips, educate patients about when they need to go to a hospital, and more.


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Medicare World Blog