It’s March, 2020. We’re entrenched in Covid-19 and keeping our social distance. Schools and businesses are, temporarily, closed and some medical practices are closed for non emergency services and routine face to face visits. But we still need our medications refilled. We are still getting regular colds, seasonal allergy flare-ups, utis, rashes and various other illnesses that we need to speak with our doctor about. So, what do we do?
Enter telemedicine – the ability to visit your doctor without ever having to step foot out your door. Telemedicine may be referred to as virtual visits, e-visits, telehealth, or something similar. There are several ways to have a telehealth visit but most involve using your smart phone or computer, depending on what telesystem your healthcare provider uses. You may sit down in front of your computer, go to a specific website, log in and have a face to face appointment using your computer camera. Or, you may download an app to your smart phone to reach your doctor. If you have an iPad, perhaps you will Facetime with your provider. With today’s technology, telemedicine is virtually unlimited.
This brings us to the current Medicare landscape. In 2020, numerous Medicare Advantage plans, individual and group plans offer telemedicine as a regular benefit. For those on Original Medicare and those who have a Medicare Supplement , also called Medigap, coverage has only been covered in limited circumstances, such as when a patient is in a rural location and in a medical facility. Due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has, temporarily, expanded access to telehealth for all full Medicare beneficiaries. What this means is that all beneficiaries, may receive and participate in virtual services. I will restate that, for now, this only “temporary”. Still, it’s a much needed and welcomed way to access medically necessary healthcare in the privacy of your own home.
So, if you have Original Medicare (OM) only or OM and a Medigap plan, call your physician and request a virtual visit. This is the future of medicine.