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    Friday February 26, 2021

    Savvy Living

    Savvy Senior

    Medicare Expands Telehealth Services

    Does Medicare cover telehealth services? My 71-year-old mother has chronic type 2 diabetes but is very concerned about going to the doctor for fear of exposing herself to coronavirus. What can you tell us?

    Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Medicare recently announced that it will be expanding coverage for telehealth services to help keep vulnerable seniors safe at home. Here is what you and your mom should know.

    Telehealth Services

    If you are not familiar with telehealth or telemedicine services, they are full visits with a health care provider who is not at your location using a telephone or video technology device – i.e. smartphone, tablet or computer.

    Telehealth services allow Medicare beneficiaries to take care of ongoing medical problems as well as new concerns, while following public health advice to stay home during the coronavirus outbreak.

    Medicare patients with chronic health conditions now do not have to postpone a regular follow-up visit with the doctor to keep safe. They can do it via Skype or FaceTime. People concerned they may have the virus could see their doctor or nurse practitioner virtually to find out how to get tested. Nursing home residents will also be able to have telehealth consultations with their doctors.

    If your mom is not familiar or comfortable with technology, you, another relative or friend can assist her. You may need to go over to her house to help her do this. Bring your smartphone, tablet or laptop – but remember, do not visit if you are feeling sick.

    Risk of serious illness from the coronavirus is much greater for older people and those with underlying health problems such as lung conditions, diabetes or heart problems. Many seniors are also managing chronic health issues that put them at heightened risk.

    Until recently, telehealth coverage under original Medicare has been limited to beneficiaries only in rural areas, and patients often need to go to specially designated sites for their visits.

    The expanded telehealth coverage, which will remain in effect during the coronavirus outbreak, now allows doctors and hospitals to bill Medicare for visits via telemedicine that previously had to take place in person, at a medical office or facility.

    If your mom happens to get her Medicare benefits through a private Medicare Advantage plan, they will also be expanding their telehealth services. For coverage details, contact her plan provider directly.

    Other Medicare Coverage

    In addition to the expanded telehealth services, Medicare will also be covering all coronavirus testing costs and medically necessary hospitalizations. If her doctor recommends that she remain in quarantine at the hospital rather than self-isolating at home, she will not have to pay for those costs.

    If your mom has a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, it will cover the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available and will waive prescription refill limits, so she can have extra medication on hand during the pandemic.

    For more information on how Medicare is covering the coronavirus see Medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus. For the latest information on the coronavirus, visit Coronavirus.gov.

    Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

    Published April 24, 2020
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