Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth services have been a literal lifesaver for countless Americans of all ages. Quarantined and reluctant to visit a doctor’s office or other health care facilities, seniors, in particular, relied on telehealth visits in record numbers in 2020 and 2021 after Medicare expanded coverage for telehealth services in March 2020. Having seen how vital and popular telehealth has become, Medicare recently announced that it would extend coverage for most telehealth services through 2023.
Prior to the pandemic, Original Medicare only covered telehealth visits for patients in rural areas and only for a very narrow range of services. Even then, patients had to travel to a clinic or hospital to do video calls if, for instance, they needed to consult with a specialist far away. They couldn’t have telehealth at home, nor could they receive care over the phone.
Since coverage was so restricted, there were only 840,000 Medicare-covered telehealth visits in 2019. But once the pandemic hit and Medicare expanded coverage for telehealth, the number of visits exploded to 52.7 million in 2020, according to a new federal report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Conversely, Original Medicare beneficiaries had 16.1 percent fewer in-person health care visits in 2020 compared to 2019.
Telehealth applies primarily to care handled under Medicare Part B, which covers doctor visits and other outpatient medical services. Medicare added 140 more eligible telehealth services in 2020, making it more accessible than ever for enrollees. However, while expanded telehealth coverage will last at least one more year, there is no guarantee it will continue after that time, especially if the pandemic has mercifully come to an end. Even if Medicare pulls back coverage, many Medicare Advantage plans offered by private insurers will continue to cover a wide range of telehealth visits.
Contact Every Way Health To Learn More About Medicare Coverage Or Medicare Advantage Plans For Telehealth
If you have questions about Medicare coverage for telehealth services or want to learn more about coverage under Medicare Advantage plans, please get in touch with Every Way Health at 877-460-3943.