News Briefs: New Research Shows Rise in Telehealth Use Among Medicare Enrollees| Dec. 16, 2021
Dec 16, 2021New statistics showing a rise in telehealth usage among Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic make a strong case for permanently expanding telehealth coverage for Medicare patients. A new report from the HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) found that the number of FFS beneficiary telehealth visits rose from approximately 840,000 in 2019 to nearly 52.7 million in 2020, with the largest increase seen in behavioral health specialist visits. Black and rural beneficiaries demonstrated lower use of telehealth compared with white and urban beneficiaries, respectively. The report did not include results for Medicare Advantage members, since plans had discretion to offer telehealth prior to the pandemic, noted ASPE. Meanwhile, a new Medicare Telemedicine Data Snapshot from CMS showed that the number of Medicare beneficiaries (including MA enrollees) using telemedicine services between March 1, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021, increased over 30 times the number of users from the prior year (March 2019 to February 2020). Dual eligibles had higher use of telehealth than those with just Medicare. “These latest numbers prove that when given the resources and opportunity to use telemedicine, many of these patients will opt to use the technology,” wrote Connected Nation, which seeks to fill broadband and digital technology gaps through partnerships across all sectors. “We would argue that among the critical needs is to expand not only access to broadband but also working to ensure it is affordable and that others understand both how to access the technology and how it can benefit them.” Read more
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