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Medicare Expands Telehealth Benefits


Barbara A. Gabriel –

Some Medicare beneficiaries will have more access to telehealth services that can monitor their health status, diagnose illnesses and adjust treatments without requiring them to leave their home, under a provision in the new congressional budget.

All Medicare beneficiaries will be eligible for tele-stroke evaluations. For example, if an emergency medical technician suspects that an individual is having a stroke, a doctor will be able to evaluate the patient’s symptoms remotely and the EMT may begin treatment on the way to the hospital. And now doctors can virtually monitor, and manage the care of, all their Medicare at-home dialysis patients. Previously, these services were available only to Medicare enrollees who lived in remote areas.

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The legislation also allows Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to expand their telehealth coverage to include a wider array of services, such as checking on a patient’s blood pressure or changing a medication dose. Patient advocates say that being able to deliver efficient, effective in-home care to those with chronic conditions could go a long way toward both improving outcomes and cutting costs.

Telehealth can be particularly useful for the more than two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries who live with multiple chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. Being able to access telehealth technologies can reduce the number of times a patient goes to a doctor’s office, which can be particularly helpful for older adults with mobility issues.

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