Beginning March 6, Medicare began temporarily paying clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries to give patients greater access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this expansion of telehealth benefits, patients can access their doctors using a wider range of communication tools, including telephones that have audio and video capabilities, making it easier for beneficiaries and doctors to connect.
Over the last two years, Medicare also expanded the ability for clinicians to have brief check-ins with their patients through phone, video chat, and online patient portals, referred to as virtual check-ins. These services are already available to beneficiaries and their physicians, providing a great deal of flexibility and an easy way for patients who are concerned about illness to remain in their homes, avoiding exposure to others.
Doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and other healthcare providers can offer telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can receive telehealth services in any healthcare facility including a physician’s office, hospital, nursing home, or rural health clinic, as well as from their homes.
Various services are available to Medicare beneficiaries through telehealth, such as common office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings. This also helps ensure Medicare beneficiaries, who are at a higher risk for COVID-19, are able to visit with their doctors from their homes, without having to go to a doctor’s office or hospital, which puts them or others at risk.
Medicare coinsurance and deductibles still apply for these services. The increased flexibility in telehealth services is scheduled to continue as long as the Public Health Emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic remains in effect.