Over the past few months, many things have changed in our world due to COVID-19. Wearing masks may be a necessity for months to come, but something that may become permanent is the use of technology for doctor visits. Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and manage your health care.
Last month, Doctor on Demand was the first big Telemedicine provider to cater to the approximately 33 million seniors with Medicare Part B. Telemedicine refers to the practice of caring for patients remotely when the provider and patient are not physically present with each other. Technology enables doctors to consult patients using HIPAA compliant video-conferencing tools. These virtual doctor visits have surged during the coronavirus pandemic as stay-at-home orders keep families and senior adults at home.
With the increase of Telehealth comes the need for better access using smartphones or computers to facilitate video conferencing. Adults of every age are finding new ways to stay connected with their doctors via FaceTime and Zoom, video options using your phone or computer. My own, 89-year-old grandmother has become quite an expert at Zoom videoconferencing during this pandemic. Canceled doctor appointments over the past three months were rescheduled and conducted using Telemedicine.
In many ways, Telemedicine models home doctor visits of the past. Governmental restrictions prevented the broad use of Telehealth in the past, but this may all change in light of the recent pandemic. In a May 13 article, Forbes reported that “As the spread of COVID-19 forced shelter in place orders around the country and drastically limited physical locations for people to get healthcare services, the federal government announced sweeping regulatory changes, lifting longstanding restrictions and reimbursing telemedicine services at the same rates as in-person visits.” This announcement by the Trump administration in March of 2020 may be a game-changer for those who prefer or need the Telehealth option, and the temporary change may become the new normal.
Another positive change for Medicare Part B beneficiaries could be reduced co-pays. Seniors using companies like Doctor on Demand normally pay full out-of-pocket fees which can be up to $75 for a medical visit without insurance. With regulatory changes, co-pays could be as little as $10. During the COVID-19 emergency, many companies have even waived the co-pay.
If you are turning 65 and have questions about Medicare or you need health insurance, call Insurance Group of the Ozarks at 417-725-1131. Take advantage of our free, no-obligation consultation with a local expert.
To read the government Fact Sheet on this announcement, visit: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/medicare-telemedicine-health-care-provider-fact-sheet