The following is a media release from Sen. Ed Markey’s offices. He was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. He is a Democrat.
WASHINGTON DC – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, is calling on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand Medicare coverage for audio-only telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic.
In his letter, Senator Markey points out that under current regulations, CMS reimburses health care providers for telehealth services provided through video-conferencing on laptops, tablets, and other similar devices, but excludes telephone conversations.
As a result, many of the more than 44 million Americans who rely on Medicare but lack the latest technology or adequate internet connectivity do not have access to telehealth services at home.
“No Medicare recipients should be denied telehealth access at this perilous times simply because they lack video-conferencing capabilities,” writes Senator Markey in his letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “During this public health crisis, CMS must do everything it can to help on our nation’s most vulnerable populations. I urge CMS to allow providers to bill Medicare for telehealth services provided by audio-only communications equipment.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
Telehealth is an especially critical tool for providing behavioral and mental health services during the coronavirus pandemic to Medicare beneficiaries, who are by definition particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Without physical access to mental health practitioners or social workers, our most vulnerable populations need the option of remotely communicating with caregivers, especially as they face new anxieties and stressors related to the ongoing crisis.