As the global pandemic hits close to home, with its epicenter being right here in the United States, more and more doctors are looking for ways to keep their patients safe and help stop the spread of the highly contagious novel Coronavirus. Doctors and patients are both turning to technology to help alleviate the need for in-person visits. And, as the demand for telemedicine grows, questions about the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) telemedicine coverage become more important than ever.
Medicare and COVID-19
The first thing to know is that Medicare wants to help keep you protected from COVID-19. Everyone knows that health and safety are a priority in these uncertain times. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that seniors and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung, or kidney disease are at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
It is also true that seniors and people with chronic and serious health conditions are the vast majority of Medicare subscribers. With the information we have at this time, it seems a likely conclusion that Medicare users are a population among the highest risk. That is why keeping you safe is a priority, and why it is so important to know what changes and improvements in CMS telemedicine coverage have been made to help you in this crucial time.
Medicare covers a range of COVID-19 related care, including:
- Lab tests for COVID-19
- FDA-authorized COVID-19 antibody (“serology”) tests
- All medically necessary hospitalizations due to COVID-19
There is no COVID-19 vaccine at this point, but if one is developed and becomes available in the United States, it will be covered by Medicare.
Along with these vital, lifesaving, in-person services, the CMS is providing coverage for many remote healthcare services. As a Medicare subscriber who wants to stay safe at home, you are surely asking, does Medicare pay for telemedicine?
Does Medicare Pay for Telemedicine?
CMS telemedicine coverage is temporarily expanded in response to the public health emergency brought on by COVID-19. As you may be aware, Medicare previously covered telemedicine in some cases, but these services have now been expanded. The expanded coverage makes it easier for you to access healthcare remotely.
For many, there is a wide range of tools available to communicate with healthcare professionals from the safety of your home. You may be able to use your smartphone, tablet, or personal computer to speak directly with doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists to name a few.
During the public health emergency, CMS telemedicine coverage allows you to receive many of your necessary health services through telemedicine, including office visits and counseling. If you have Original Medicare, these services will not require that you pay a co-payment at this time. The benefit to receiving these services at home is that you greatly reduce your own risk of exposure to COVID-19 and help keep others safe in the process.
Right now, Medicare patients can use remote technology for regular office visits and for other healthcare services that you typically receive in-person with trips to the hospital or to your doctor’s office. Doctors and other providers communicate with you via audio and video to host real-time visits with you while you stay at home.
Because it is so important that you do your best to avoid unnecessary travel, you will want to familiarize yourself with the remote technology that your healthcare providers are using. Many of these systems are user friendly and easy for you to access. If you are not an existing patient but still need medical care, it is now possible for you to be treated by a provider using telemedicine without that established relationship under new enforcement of CMS telemedicine coverage. You will want to check with specific providers about their availability and willingness to accept new patients.
What Does CMS Telemedicine Coverage Include?
- Medicare Telehealth Visit: This is a visit with your provider that uses telecommunication systems.
- Virtual Check-In: A brief five-to-ten minute check-in with your provider by telephone or another communication device to decide if an office visit or another service is needed. This could include a remote evaluation of a video or other documentation you have sent to your doctor.
- E-Visit: This is an electronic visit that enables you to communicate with your provider on an online portal. This kind of visit would not be conducted in real time. You can think of e-visits as more like emails.
Many healthcare providers are stepping up to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by treating patients at home, especially higher-risk patients such as seniors and those with chronic or serious illness. If you do display symptoms consistent with the Coronavirus, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Cano Health is ready to help patients navigate the complex care they will need during this difficult time. Our team is already assisting symptomatic patients and the community at large through telemedicine and pharmacy home delivery programs.
>>> Contact Cano Health today at 855.CANOMED (855.226.6633) to learn more.