Trump Admin Announces That Medicare Will Cover Telehealth During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020, 5:04 PM PERMALINK

The Trump administration is using its executive authority to temporarily cover telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. This change will allow patients to interact with their doctors via phone or video conferencing at no additional cost, covering commonly used services like Facetime and Skype. 

As the Coronavirus spreads across the United States, Trump rightly recognizes that telemedicine is a natural solution for patients to connect to their doctors during this public health crisis.

On March 13th 2020, Trump declared the Coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, allowing the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to act quickly to provide maximum flexibility for patients and providers. 

Prior to this declaration, Medicare was only allowed to pay for telemedicine in certain circumstances, such as for rural patients that lacked easy access to their doctors. In these situations, the patient would have to travel to a medical facility and teleconference with their doctors, and beneficiaries could not generally receive care in their homes. 

The Trump Administration has previously expanded telemedicine in Medicare. Over the past two years, beneficiaries have been able to briefly check in with their doctors via phone, videoconferencing, or online patient portals. 

The telemedicine expansion for Coronavirus allows a wide range of providers (doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed social workers) to offer telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can receive telecare at any healthcare facility, like nursing homes or physician’s offices, or from the comfort of their own homes. 

In order to allow patients to more easily communicate with their providers, the Administration loosened the HIPAA requirements surrounding telemedicine. This important change allows doctors to see patients via commonly used apps like Facetime and Skype that were previously non-HIPAA compliant. 

Beneficiaries will be able to receive a wide range of services under this expansion, including routine check-ins, mental health counseling, and preventative health screenings. 

Seniors are at the highest risk of harm from the Coronavirus. Allowing Medicare beneficiaries to receive a wide range of services via telemedicine reduces their risk of exposure to the disease and allows providers to focus on the most critical patients during this health crisis. 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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