President Donald Trump announced at Tuesday’s coronavirus task force briefing a “dramatic expansion” to Medicare’s telehealth programs to help combat the spread of the virus.
Trump explained that Medicare patients can now utilize any video chat service, including Apple’s FaceTime or Skype, to visit any doctor at no additional cost. He added that states have also been granted the authority to cover telehealth programs and that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act penalties would be waived for all medical professionals so that they may properly utilize the telehealth programs to serve the public. (RELATED: Mnuchin To Request $850 Billion Coronavirus Stimulus Package From Congress)
“We encourage everyone to maximize telehealth to limit exposure to the virus,” the president told reporters in the White House’s Brady Briefing Room. “We’ll be able to better maintain hospital capacity.”
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma also explained what the expansion means for the 62 million medicare beneficiaries, some of whom are “the most vulnerable” to coronavirus.
“This is a part of our larger efforts around mitigation,” she explained, “to ensure that government requirements, rules and regulations don’t get in the way of patient care in an emergency.”
“This shift is very important for clinicians and providers who over the coming weeks will face considerable strain on their time and resources,” Verma continued. “This allows the health care system to prioritize care for those who have more dire needs.”
Verma added that in addition to allowing state Medicaid to follow Medicare’s example, the White House is has “also asked private insurance companies to expand their telehealth benefits and to make it clear to their providers and members what they cover.”
Trump also touched on his Tuesday teleconference with more than a dozen fast food executives, including representatives for McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Subway, Domino’s and Papa Johns. During the call, the executives pledged to keep drive thru and pickup windows open to serve the public under the White House’s 15-day social distancing guidelines.
“If we do this right, our country and the world frankly, but our country can be rolling again very quickly,” Trump added of the guidance, issued Monday. “We have to fight this invisible enemy.”