Although telehealth has been part of health care for more than 40 years, it surged into mainstream use during the COVID-19 crisis when in-person contact was limited to reduce the risk and spread of infection. In fact, more than 28 million Medicare enrollees used telehealth services between 2020 and 2021.
For many people, especially seniors in rural areas or those with mobility issues, the advantages of being able to receive care from the comfort of home have made telehealth an increasingly popular and effective choice.
Joe, a Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC) member who started “Zooming” during the pandemic, said he still has telehealth visits with all of his doctors every month.
By delivering high-quality care in a convenient way, telehealth is an efficient and effective way to improve care outcomes, reduce unnecessary and costly visits to the emergency department, and make certain that patients get the right care at the right time in the right setting.
Support Through COVID
After contracting COVID-19, CMC member Betty was able to receive treatment from her provider at home without risking her own health or the health of others, “my doctor treated me over the phone and I loved it, I did not have to go outside of my house once I had COVID-19.”
Coalition member Alyson felt peace of mind knowing that her Medicare Advantage plan covered telehealth appointments during the height of COVID-19, “it is such a comfort to know that any health care that I might need be it COVID-19 related, will be covered by my Medicare Advantage plan, especially as it related to telemedicine appointments.”
Good for Seniors and People with Disabilities
The effectiveness of telehealth is being studied extensively, and published studies show that telemedicine is effective and doesn’t reduce access to needed care.
Many older Americans live in rural areas and do not have access to specialty care within a reasonable distance. Telehealth helps bridge the many miles from patients to appropriate specialists.
Freda, a CMC member, shared how as a senior living in a rural area of Arizona, “Medicare Advantage offers convenient and accessible benefits despite where I live, ensuring I can connect with my doctors and maintain a peace of mind.”
Supporting Mental Health
Pat, another CMC member, talked about the program’s coverage of mental health care services, particularly via telehealth, saying it has been “extremely important” for seniors.
CMC member and physician Dr. Neff praised the inclusion of telehealth services in Medicare Advantage, especially for mental health. “Telemedicine has helped us tremendously in creating a daily touch point for individuals to make certain that someone is there,” he said.
In a letter to the editor, CMC member Ernie discussed the crucial mental health support Medicare Advantage provided during the pandemic. “As so many of us spent time sheltered inside or fearing for our health and safety because of COVID-19, Medicare Advantage stepped in to provide telehealth benefits and ways to build a community from the comfort of home,” he said.
More than 31 million seniors and people with disabilities depend on Medicare Advantage for high-quality affordable health care. Telehealth is one of the many benefits that show the better services, better access to care, and better value Medicare Advantage provides.
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