Telehealth services provide access to healthcare and should continue to be an option, particularly for those in rural and underserved areas.
Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should keep telehealth services including coverage for audio-only services.
Telehealth can help expand access to care and maintain continuity of care for all patients.
For Medicare beneficiaries, access to telehealth services is especially important. From July to September 2020, 15.1 million Medicare beneficiaries had a telehealth visit with a doctor or other healthcare professional, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation—nearly half of the beneficiaries whose providers offered telehealth services.
It is important to allow the use of audio-only equipment for a wide-range of Medicare services as well, to ensure that telehealth is accessible to underserved groups.
Among Medicare beneficiaries who had a telehealth visit, 56 percent reported accessing care using a telephone only.
Among Medicare beneficiaries who are over 75, live in rural areas, identify as Hispanic, or have Medicare and Medicaid, a majority reported using audio-only telehealth services.
Audio-only visits will ensure that those in areas with limited or no broadband won’t lose access to critically needed services, particularly older adults and younger individuals with disabilities who rely on Medicare for essential behavioral healthcare.