As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have expanded access to telehealth services. This enables over 60 million Medicare beneficiaries to safely receive services from their doctor without having to travel for an office visit. CMS has advised providers to educate patients on the availability of telehealth services.
Given the disproportional impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities, this communication is particularly critical for the approximately 8 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who are limited English proficient, as well as the 15 percent who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
Prior to this change, which began on March 6, Medicare could only pay for telehealth for beneficiaries from a designated rural area and at a healthcare setting, such as at a doctor’s office or hospital.
What Does Medicare Pay for Now?
For the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, Medicare will pay for office, hospital, and other visits delivered via telehealth in patient’s homes, and across the country. CMS has also broadened the range of providers able to offer telehealth to their patients.
What Types of Virtual Services will now be reimbursed by Medicare?
- Medicare telehealth visits: Medicare patients can use telecommunication technology for office visits, hospital visits, and other healthcare services that typically happen in-person.
- Virtual check-ins: These are brief communications between patients and practitioners, such as a discussion over a telephone or exchange of information through video or image.
- E-visits: These are non-face-to-face, patient-initiated communications with their doctors done through online patient portals.
Do organizations need to ensure language access for limited English proficient and deaf and hard of hearing patients when meeting with a patient via telehealth?
Yes. Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act apply to services provided in person and via telehealth.
Learn how to add an interpreter to a telehealth Zoom call here.
You do not need an appointment to have an interpreter join your telehealth session. Our interpreters are available on demand and are here to serve you when you need them most.
For information about telehealth and Medicaid, please refer to CMS’s COVID-19 Telehealth Toolkit to Accelerate State Use of Telehealth in Medicaid and CHIP.