The pandemic increased the need for virtual health services, but even before COVID-19, Medicare offered telehealth visits to some of its members. Medicare Telehealth services traditionally included virtual office visits and a small list of other medical or health services provided by a doctor or certain other types of health care providers through two-way audio/video technology to its remote and rural customers. In 2018, only about 21.5% of Original Medicare beneficiaries were living in rural areas, leaving a lot of beneficiaries out of qualifying for telehealth.
Medicare offers telehealth coverage through Medicare Part B insurance. Kupunas on Original Medicare pay 20% of the Medicare-Approved Amount for telehealth services, and the Part B deductible applies*. For most telehealth services, patients pay the same amount as they would for an in-person visit. Kupuna on Medicare Advantage plans may have additional coverage for telehealth services. Speak to a local Medicare agent to discuss plan options.
*While coinsurance and deductibles normally do apply for telehealth services, healthcare providers have the option of reducing or waiving the amount their patients pay for telehealth visits during the pandemic. Be careful not to accept telehealth appointments from providers that you have never worked with before. In some cases, they call and offer perks for setting up the appointment and then start billing Medicare for items or services you don’t need. If you suspect Medicare fraud, call 1-800-MEDICARE.
Medicare Telehealth Expanded in 2021 Because of Covid-19
With the need for social distance during the COVID-19 public health emergency, Medicare expanded its virtual health care services in several ways. While 144 services were added on a temporary basis, several have now become permanent additions.
Permanent changes include the addition of: