By Seema Verma, Administrator, U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
At Medicare, we understand you may have concerns about going to your doctor's office during the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Like so many Americans, our Medicare beneficiaries are rightly observing social distancing guidelines to protect themselves and others from possible infection. We also recognize our beneficiaries still need checkups, prescription refills or other care from their doctors.
The good news is the federal government dramatically expanded access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic. Telehealth lets you communicate with your physician and other healthcare professionals using your phone, video chat, secure text messaging, email or through a patient portal. That means you don't have to leave your home and risk exposure to the virus.
Medicare is paying for our 62 million beneficiaries to have at-home access to a broad range of telehealth services. If you're in a Medicare Advantage health plan, check with your plan. We recently authorized Medicare Advantage plans to offer expanded telehealth coverage to meet the needs of their enrollees.
Telehealth can be used for routine office visits, preventive health screenings, mental health counseling and care that ordinarily would require a trip to an outpatient clinic or hospital emergency room. In fact, Medicare recently added 80 more telehealth services, including radiation treatment management, therapeutic exercises, prosthetic training, assistive technology assessments, group psychotherapy, inpatient neonatal and pediatric critical care, and end-stage renal disease care.
So, I encourage Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of these great new services. Contact your doctor or health plan about available telehealth options.
For people with Original Medicare, telehealth is covered under Part B. Medicare is allowing healthcare providers to reduce or waive the usual Part B coinsurance and deductible for these services, if they choose.
Doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and other clinicians are all eligible to provide telehealth services.
Medicare also pays for phone calls with your doctor. You can even get telehealth from a doctor with whom you don't have an established relationship.
So please, if you're a senior, follow the federal recommendations: "30 days to slow the spread." As the federal government has recommended, stay at home and away from other people for the next few weeks. This is especially important for older people with a serious health condition such as heart or lung problems or a weakened immune system that puts them at higher risk for the virus.
Medicare is offering these new telehealth options during the pandemic so you can get the care you need, and the peace of mind that comes with it, from the comfort of your own home.
For more information on Medicare coverage of telehealth, go to www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/president-trump-expands-telehealth-benefits-medicare-beneficiaries-during-covid-19-outbreak
CMS actions in response to COVID-19 are part of the ongoing White House Coronavirus Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19, visit www.coronavirus.gov. For a complete and updated list of CMS actions, and other information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.