Medicare Telehealth

Medicare telehealth expansion could be here to stay. Here’s where things stand

Key Points
  • At least 10 million Medicare beneficiaries have used telehealth since early March, compared with about 13,000 weekly appointments pre-pandemic.
  • Lawmakers and regulators are looking at making some of the current expansions permanent.
  • Among the issues that policymakers would need to address are the cost and quality of remote care, as well as determining which services are appropriate for telemedicine.

In early March, U.S. health officials had a stark warning for older Americans: You are more at risk for complications if you contract Covid-19, so avoid leaving your home.

For Medicare’s 62.5 million beneficiaries — the majority of whom are 65 or older and more likely to use medical services — this was more than an inconvenience or new threat. It meant needing to see a doctor could pose a dangerous choice.

Enter telehealth. As communities worked to stem the spread of the coronavirus through temporary business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, lawmakers and regulators loosened policies to make remote health care through Medicare more broadly available during the public emergency.
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