TUESDAY, March 17, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Medicare is expanding coverage for telemedicine nationwide so that millions of American seniors can get health care at home and avoid the coronavirus, officials said Tuesday.
Seniors and people with underlying health problems such as lung conditions, diabetes, or heart problems have a greater risk for serious illness from COVID-19, the Associated Press reported.
"Providers will be allowed to use everyday technologies to talk to telehealth patients, more telehealth services will be covered … and providers will be allowed to offer these telehealth benefits to Medicare beneficiaries at a lower cost than traditional services," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
Doctors' groups and hospitals had been pushing for the move. The expansion of telemedicine coverage "helps us prevent the spread of the virus," Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a statement. If telemedicine proves valuable in the coronavirus pandemic, it could lead to permanent changes that expand its availability to seniors, the AP reported.