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How COVID-19 Changed Medicare Telehealth Services

In 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded access to Medicare telehealth services to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Since the expansion, telehealth has changed the way people receive care, providing opportunities for all Medicare beneficiaries to maintain consistent communication and care from their providers—without having to leave their home. When it comes to telehealth and Medicare, here’s what you need to know.

Benefits of Telehealth Services Expansion in 2020-2021

Telehealth offers a level of flexibility and freedom to Medicare beneficiaries when it comes to handling their healthcare. Here are some of the biggest benefits of telehealth service expansions due to COVID-19:

  • Increased Access to Specialists: Telehealth services make it easier to access specialists that Medicare beneficiaries otherwise may not be able to access due to their location. 
  • Avoid Hospitalization: Vulnerable individuals being able to avoid going into their providers office to receive care reduced the risk of contracting COVID-19 or other viruses. 
  • Improved Outcomes: Patients are less likely to cancel or miss their appointment due to the ability to connect with their providers remotely.

Are telehealth services covered by Medicare?

Under the expansion of telehealth services due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Medicare can now pay for office, hospital, and other visits completed via telehealth. This allows Medicare beneficiaries to access a wider range of services without having to risk their health or the health of others. 

In addition to Original Medicare, individuals with Medicare Advantage plans can also expect coverage to include telehealth services. You can learn more about telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries by visiting Medicare.gov/telehealth.

Types of Telehealth Services Covered

There are three types of virtual services physicians and other healthcare professionals can provide to Medicare beneficiaries:

  • Medicare telehealth visits
  • Virtual check-ins
  • E-visits

This includes evaluation and management visits (which replace common office visits), mental health counseling and preventative screenings. Medicare also provides coverage for audio-only visits, which has allowed hospitals and health systems to provide access to care for patients who do not have access to broadband or video conferencing technology.

What is telehealth?

Telehealth is the use of telecommunications to virtually deliver health related services and information that support patient care. Telehealth services give patients access to healthcare professionals from the comfort of their own home and patients can visit with their doctors without having to go to their office or the hospital, avoiding the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the distribution of health-related services through telecommunication technologies. It allows providers to give care to patients when they are not physically present with each other.

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