COVID-19 Waivers Boost Medicare Telehealth Access
Monday, August 10th, 2020

Per a recent study, Medicare Advantage Plans and other stakeholders indicated that during the coronavirus pandemic, CMS exemptions proved successful in allowing access to Medicare and Medicare Advantage telehealth. However, there are still hurdles to overcome.

After reviewing the data from 2017, the researchers discovered that, particularly in metropolitan areas, internet coverage was primarily targeted towards younger Medicare beneficiaries with income deemed medium to high. Standard Medicare beneficiaries were more likely to use the internet than beneficiaries of Medicare Advantage, in all the groups analyzed.

CMS provided several telehealth flexibility plans for Medicare and Medicare Advantage, including broadening coverage to Medicare telehealth visits, virtual check-ins, and e-visits, and finally, audio-only services.

Policies that shared risk-bearing payment structures assisted with the rapid adjustments of plans and providers to the pandemic. These models let Medicare Advantage plans employ telehealth services and grow in a brief time to current platforms.

Fee-for-service payment programs proved trickier for both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage patients as they navigated the adoption and expansion of telehealth.

Certain factors that increased the adoption and growth of virtual care included promoting home-based telehealth, removing the requirement for providers to have a previous relationship, and increasing the eligibility requirements for provider and service reimbursement.

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