At Medicare, we understand that you may have concerns about going to your doctor’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like so many Americans, our Medicare beneficiaries are observing social distancing guidelines to protect themselves and others from possible infection. We also recognize that our beneficiaries still need checkups, prescription refills or other care from their doctors.
The good news is that access to telehealth services has been expanded 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 are 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. Healthcare providers are being allowed 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 are a senior, follow the federal recommendations — “30 days to slow the spread.” 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: https://www.cms.gov
Seema Verma is the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.