Telehealth services for adults aged 65 and older are covered by Original Medicare Part B and certain Medicare Advantage, or Part C, plans. Medicare Advantage may cover a wide range of telehealth services not included under Original Medicare.
Telehealth refers to the delivery of medical and health services remotely through technologies, such as telephone, video conferencing, secure text, email or online patient portals. It allows health care providers to deliver clinical care even when they’re not in the same physical location as a patient.
Services may include general health care and wellness checks, prescription management, nutrition advice and mental health counseling.
Telehealth services can be provided by health care professionals, including physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech language pathologists.
Both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans provide telehealth coverage. As the result of Medicare policy changes announced by the federal government in 2020, Medicare Advantage plans now have the flexibility to provide increased access to telehealth services to complement in-person visits.
The federal government covers telehealth services through Medicare Part B. These services include consultations, remote monitoring or treatment of patients using two-way interactive communication by telephone or video conferencing. Medicare also covers virtual check-ins or e-visits using text, email and online portals.
The Part B deductible applies to these services, and seniors are required to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved charge.
Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private insurance companies. They provide the same hospital and medical coverage as Original Medicare Parts A and B, along with additional benefits.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees Medicare, announced changes in May 2020 allowing private insurance companies to offer their members greater access to telehealth.
Medicare Advantage plan members can now receive telehealth services from specialists in fields such as dermatology, psychiatry, cardiology, ophthalmology, nephrology, gynecology, endocrinology, infectious disease, otolaryngology, neurology and allergy and immunology.
All private insurance companies must provide the same telehealth coverage as Medicare Part B, but the expanded coverage varies. Seniors who are interested in telehealth should confirm with their insurance company the types of services that are eligible for coverage. Medicare’s online Plan Finder can help seniors compare coverage options and available plans by area.