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U.S. Medicare and Telehealth Services During COVID-19 Pandemic

Author: Disabled World : Contact: www.disabled-world.com

Published: 2020-03-22 : (Rev. 2020-03-23)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Due to COVID-19 Medicare temporarily expands coverage of telehealth services, including evaluation and management visits, mental health counseling and preventive health screenings.

This will help ensure you are able to visit with your doctor from your home, without having to go to a doctor's office or hospital.

You need to consent verbally to using virtual check-ins and your doctor must document that consent in your medical record before you use this service.

Main Digest

Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services to respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic health emergency.

These services expand the current telehealth covered services, to help you have access from more places (including your home), with a wider range of communication tools, including smartphones, to interact with a range of providers such as doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers.

During this time, you will be able to receive a specific set of services through telehealth including evaluation and management visits - common office visits - mental health counseling and preventive health screenings. This will help ensure you are able to visit with your doctor from your home, without having to go to a doctor's office or hospital, which puts you and others at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Illustration of telehealth doctor to patient communication on various device screens.
Illustration of telehealth doctor to patient communication on various device screens.

You may be able to communicate with your doctors or certain other practitioners without necessarily going to the doctor's office in person for a full visit. Medicare pays for "virtual check-ins" - brief, virtual services with your established physician or certain practitioners where the communication isn't related to a medical visit within the previous 7 days - and doesn't lead to a medical visit within the next 24 hours (or soonest appointment available).

You need to consent verbally to using virtual check-ins and your doctor must document that consent in your medical record before you use this service. You pay your usual Medicare coinsurance and deductible for these services.

Medicare also pays for you to communicate with your doctors using online patient portals without going to the doctor's office. Like the virtual check-ins, you must initiate these individual communications.

If you live in a rural area, you may use communication technology to have full visits with your doctors. The law requires that these visits take place at specified sites of service, known as telehealth originating sites, and get services using a real-time audio and video communication system at the site to communicate with a remotely located doctor or certain other types of practitioners. Medicare pays for many medical visits through this telehealth benefit.

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