Seniors and COVID-19
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How does this bill increase access to telehealth services for seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries?
The CARES Act gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) broad authority to allow more health care providers to provide telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries, including in the beneficiaries’ homes to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19, and provide more flexibility in terms of how those telehealth services can be provided. Once enacted into law, the HHS Secretary must explain how this change will increase access to telehealth services for seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries.
How will seniors access the medications they need while also being told it’s better to stay at home? In the past, Medicare drug plans only let beneficiaries receive a 30-day supply of their prescription.
Under the CARES Act, during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), a senior on Medicare can get up to 90 days of a prescription if that is what the doctor prescribed, as long as there are no safety concerns. Medicare drug plans will also allow beneficiaries to fill their prescription early for refills up to 90 days, depending on the prescription.
Does the bill give additional flexibility for hospice providers?
Yes. In order for a qualified beneficiary to receive hospice benefits, a hospice physician or nurse practitioner must certify their eligibility. Typically, a recertification must be done in person. The CARES Act allows hospice physicians and nurse practitioners to conduct these visits via telehealth for the duration of the PHE.
With more patients needing to stay at home, and a growing concern over health care workforce shortages due to COVID-19, how does the CARES Act help those who depend on the home health benefit?
Under current law, only physicians are able to certify the need for home health services. The CARES Act makes a permanent change to the law to allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists to order home health services for beneficiaries. This should reduce delays and increase beneficiary access to care in the safety of their home.
The CARES Act also directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to encourage the use of telecommunications systems, including remote patient monitoring, to deliver home health services during the COVID-19 emergency period. This allows patients to receive certain home health services without a provider entering their home.