Medicare to temporarily cover telehealth

The federal government has removed barriers to provide resources that allow the utilization of telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak. The recent decisions by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow all telemedicine regardless of patient location reduces the risk of infection to both patients and healthcare workers. Further, it keeps waiting rooms, ER’s, and hospitals free from large crowds. 

Beginning on March 6, 2020, Medicare—administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries residing across the entire country.  

We hope that all networks, including the commercial payers follow suit with the Federal Government to take the same steps to protect patients and all populations. 

Effective for services starting March 6, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Medicare will make payment for Medicare telehealth services furnished to patients in broader circumstances. 

These visits are considered the same as in-person visits and are paid at the same rate as regular, in-person visits. Medicare coinsurance and deductible still apply for these services. 

A range of healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, will be able to offer telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries.  

Available telehealth services can include common office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings.  

This will help ensure Medicare beneficiaries, who are already at a higher risk for COVID-19, are able to visit with their doctor from their home, without having to go to a doctor’s office or hospital which puts themselves and others at risk. 

The new guidelines and guidance mean that seniors can utilize a phone call, an application from a smartphone, or even FaceTime or Skype to get to a doctor. 

Prior to this announcement, Medicare only allowed telehealth services for routine visits in certain circumstances.  

MMS member, O. Lee Berkenstock, MD, explains the new Medicare coverage of telehealth to stop the spread of COVID-19. Watch the interview here: