Medicare Telehealth Benefits to Extend Past Public Health Emergency

The Trump Administration recently signed an executive order aimed to improve access and convenience of care through telehealth for Medicare recipients, particularly those living in rural areas.

In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), hospitals curtailed elective medical procedures and limited access to in-person clinical care. To help patients better access healthcare, the Trump Administration previously expanded Medicare benefits and suspended restrictions on 135 healthcare services via virtual care; allowing for flexibility regarding what services may be provided via telehealth, who may provide them, and in what circumstances care may be provided. This executive order seeks to extend these flexibilities and expand telehealth benefits permanently; ultimately to increase access and choices for seniors.

After the executive order, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) moved swiftly to issue a proposed rule, which addresses healthcare challenges and reduces clinician burden in rural areas. The CMS’ proposal:

  • Allows for specified services, including certain types of home visits, to be permanently offered via telehealth.
  • Helps to ensure that the CMS appropriately recognizes the types of care where clinicians need to spend more face-to-face time with patients (i.e. primary care, complex or chronic disease management).

“Telemedicine can never fully replace in-person care, but it can complement and enhance in-person care by furnishing one more powerful clinical tool to increase access and choices for America’s seniors.”

Seema Verma, CMS Administrator

Before the PHE, approximately 14,000 beneficiaries received a Medicare telehealth service in a week. From mid-March to early July, 10.1 million beneficiaries received a Medicare telehealth service.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has noted the shift of Medicare participants toward the telehealth format, while details surrounding telehealth’s impact on Medicaid recipients continues to adjust.  

Additional details available here. For more information on Medicare’s unprecedented increases in telemedicine and its impact on the healthcare delivery system, click here.