Medicare may continue its level of telehealth coverage after COVID-19.
Many services have adapted in the midst of COVID-19.
To minimize potential exposure to the virus, telehealth has become an important alternative to in-person visits.
By providing accessibility to these services, Medicare expanded its telehealth coverage during COVID-19.
According to a recent STAT article titled “‘I can’t imagine going back’: Medicare leader calls for expanded telehealth access after Covid-19,” some officials are calling for Medicare to continue coverage after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
Certain areas of the country have seen a significant increase in “virtual visits” in the past three months.
Telemedicine visits have risen more then 40-fold in some areas.
These numbers likely rose as a result of the federal government Medicare program equalizing payments for these services during the pandemic.
Those advocating for the continued inclusion of telehealth in Medicare coverage cite a greater access to medical care.
According to Seeme Verma, the administrator for The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the number of telehealth visits increased from 12,000 before the arrival of the coronavirus in the U.S. to more than a million per week.
What needs to happen to continue Medicare coverage of telemedicine?
Congress would need to take action to nationally and permanently expand telehealth.
At this time, there are restrictions to only cover those living in rural areas.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is working to allow continuing access for visits in specific settings like hospice care, nursing homes, or patients homes.
This organization is also attempting to make physical therapy, mental health, and emergency care permanently available through telehealth.
Verma also addressed the desire to continue allowing physicians to practice across state lines after the pandemic.
At this time, the future connection between Medicare and telehealth is uncertain.