In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) worked together to greatly expand access to telehealth services for seniors. In so doing, policymakers helped seniors temporarily maintain some access to care amid stay-at-home orders and reduced their risk of COVID-19 exposure in health care settings. This was especially important for heart and stroke patients who require routine medical care to manage their conditions and have a greater risk of severe complications from a COVID-19 infection. Since that time, millions of seniors across the country have taken advantage and sought high-quality care via telehealth without the added burden of travel costs and times, as well as lengthy waiting room periods for short visits. In addition to the convenience factor for seniors, evidence shows that access to telehealth services is vital to achieving better health outcomes, greater health equity, more patient choice, and a more efficient health care system.
hero_image_alt_text===Man using telehealth
thumbnail_alt_text===Man using telehealth
Thanks to pandemic flexibilities, telehealth services have become extremely popular and a critically important tool to keep our seniors healthy. In fact, Medicare visits through telehealth have increased 63-fold, from approximately 840,000 visits in 2019 to more than 52 million in 2020. Whether you’re rich or poor, from a big city like New York or a rural area like northern Alaska, there are more than 52 million instances of seniors benefitting from expanded access to telehealth services.
Unfortunately, unless Congress takes-action, the pandemic flexibilities that allow for the overwhelming majority of telehealth Medicare visits will expire shortly after the COVID public health emergency does. That means that millions of seniors across the country would lose access to popular and medically necessary telehealth services. That’s why the American Heart Association and You’re the Cure has joined with hundreds of health care stakeholders to urge Congress to permanently extend the increased access to telehealth services that have been so vital during the pandemic.
In the coming months, maintaining access to telehealth services in the post-pandemic world will become a focus for YTC engagement. To achieve our goals in Congress—to ensure continuous, comprehensive, equitable access to telehealth - we need to start preparing now and that starts with advocates like you.
We need to start collecting and sharing stories about patients and providers experiences since 2020 and we hope we can count on your help. If you’re on Medicare, or treat Medicare patients, and have used telehealth services since 2020 please tell us about it in the form below! We want to hear about your experience, the good, the bad whatever… just tell us about it. Please know that we value your privacy, and no submissions will be shared without your consent.