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AARP to Congress: Expand Medicare Telehealth Coverage

En español | Virtual doctor visits became a safe, convenient and popular way for older adults to get needed health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that the government has declared the public health emergency over, restrictions on telehealth for people on Medicare — which were waived during the crisis — are scheduled to return at the end of 2024.

That’s why we wrote to Capitol Hill lawmakers last week endorsing the  CONNECT (Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies) for Health Act of 2023. If passed, the bipartisan bill would permanently allow coverage of telehealth services for all Medicare beneficiaries, bringing Medicare more in line with private insurance companies.

The legislation incorporates “lessons learned during the public health emergency,” which “forced Medicare to quickly adapt to an increased need for telehealth,” wrote Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president of government affairs.

Under pre-pandemic rules, Medicare limited telehealth coverage to people living in rural areas, who may have a difficult time accessing a health care provider. Patients were required to receive care at a hospital, clinic or other health care facility rather than at home. AARP has long opposed those restrictions, and the proposed legislation would permanently lift them. The Department of Health and Human Services would decide which services and providers would be covered.

Allowing seniors to use telehealth is not only more convenient, especially for those without transportation, but it can help older adults stick with treatment regimens and manage chronic diseases, we told lawmakers.

“It also allows greater opportunity for family caregivers to participate in the process,” Sweeney wrote.

Read our letters to the House and Senate, and learn more at AARP’s Telehealth Resource Center.

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