Posted: June 29, 2020
As more patients and providers utilize telehealth to give and receive care, accessibility and affordability of telehealth increases. During the global pandemic, telehealth has allowed patients to connect with providers over a secure Internet connection, eliminating contact, and preventing the spread of disease. Telemedicine has also made it possible for providers to connect with patients in remote and rural locations. Without this valuable service, patients in these areas might not receive care.
Despite growing popularity and availability of telehealth services, many patients still worry about reimbursement for telehealth visits. This is especially true for patients on Medicare that might not have access to the funds needed to pay for telehealth services. Fortunately, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently broadened their coverage of Medicare telehealth services. For a temporary basis, patients with Medicare can receive telehealth services for a wide range of conditions without having to leave their home or office. This temporary policy change is part of a greater effort by the CMS and the White House Task Force to ensure that all Americans have access to healthcare.
CMS Changes Allow Medicare Beneficiaries to Receive Telehealth Services
Medicare, the country’s health insurance program for individuals age 65 or older and individuals with certain health conditions or disabilities, covers in-person doctor, outpatient, and hospital services. Under the new change, covered services include telehealth visits provided over a secure telehealth platform. Patients can schedule and attend virtual visits from any location including their home or office. Prior to this change, Medicare beneficiaries could only receive telehealth services if they lived in rural areas and if they traveled to a healthcare facility.
This change comes at a crucial time. Older adults and those with certain health conditions are more susceptible to complications from COVID-19 infection. However, getting to hospital or other healthcare facility isn’t always possible or feasible for these individuals. Using a secure telehealth platform, providers can safely evaluate patients experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases. Without having any contact with the patient, providers can take a full history, evaluate the patient, and determine whether they require additional testing. This saves time, allowing the provider to see more patients. It also keeps both patient and provider safe from infection.
Although the change is temporary, the CMS has made several other changes to increase accessibility to virtual care since last year. Medicare began covering virtual check-ins in 2019. Another option, Medicare Part B beneficiaries can access E-visits through a secure online portal.
For the entire duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Medicare beneficiaries can receive coverage for preventative health screenings, evaluation, health management, and mental health screenings from participating providers. Almost any visit that would occur in-person can take place over secure telemedicine software as long as the provider uses an interactive audio video telecommunications system that permits real-time communication. Qualifying healthcare providers include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives, certified nurse anesthetists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, registered dietitians, and nutrition professionals.
Let’s Talk Interactive provides HIPAA-compliant telehealth solutions for a wide range of providers. Please contact us for more information.