During this time of social distancing and isolation, life still has to go on. All of the basic necessities like grocery shopping and medical visits must continue. Luckily, to help make things a lot safer for those of us needing to meet with our doctors during this uncertain time, the federal government has just expanded Medicare telehealth coverage to make it easier for individuals to meet with their health care providers from home.

Prior to this new expansion, Medicare would only cover telehealth doctor visits in certain specific situations such as when patients were in rural areas far from their needed healthcare provider. Now, anyone can take advantage of Medicare telehealth visits in order to maintain social distance and avoid possible spread of the novel coronavirus

“The Trump Administration is taking swift and bold action to give patients greater access to care through telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma in a press release outlining the expansion in telehealth coverage. “These changes allow seniors to communicate with their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility so that they can limit the risk of exposure and the spread of this virus. Clinicians on the frontlines will now have greater flexibility to treat our beneficiaries safely.”

According to the new guidelines, Medicare will now cover “office, hospital, and other visits furnished via telehealth across the country and including in patient’s places of residence starting March 6, 2020.  A range of providers, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, will be able to offer telehealth to their patients.”

Providers must use interactive audio and visual communications systems that enable real-time interaction between patients and healthcare providers, and patients must have already established a relationship with their telehealth provider. Telehealth visits will be billed the same as in-person visits. Medicare coinsurance and deductibles apply.

For more information and a comprehensive outline of the rules and regulations related to these new Medicare telehealth policies, visit the CMS Medicare telehealth fact sheet.