Medicare Expands Telemedicine During Pandemic

March 18, 2020 -- 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 of serious illness from the coronavirus, 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 AP reported.

The expansion of telemedicine coverage "helps us prevent the spread of the virus," said Medicare administrator Seema Verma.

Relatives or friends can help seniors who aren't comfortable with technology, she suggested.

"If it's your mom, you may need to go over to her house to help her do this," Verma said, but don't visit if you feel sick.

If telemedicine proves valuable in the coronavirus pandemic, it could lead to permanent changes that expand its availability to seniors, the AP reported.

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