Several months ago, as most governors issued COVID-19 Stay at Home or Shelter in Place Orders, our seniors were stuck at home with no way to see their doctor.
This healthy strategy put many seniors who depend on frequent medical treatment in peril, so American Senior Alliance went to work seeking solutions to this urgent need.
We rolled up our sleeves and urged Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to come to the rescue of our older Americans who were stranded in their homes without the opportunity to visit their physician. As you know, senior citizens love their doctors and were growing more concerned by the day without getting their medical updates.
Thankfully, CMS heard the pleas and issued an emergency ruling allowing for virtual doctor visits if the patient was using Skype or Facetime. This was very encouraging news! However, even though our older adults are getting savvier by the day when it comes to technology, many of them still don't have access to this type of technology, so we asked CMS to go a step further and allow for telephone-only telehealth doctor visits. We are forever grateful CMS stepped up and allowed telephone-only doctor visits on an interim basis during the pandemic.
Recently, a bipartisan group of 38 United States Senator's sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking them for a written plan and timeline for any permanent administrative changes to Medicare rules concerning telehealth. We wholeheartedly support this effort by these U.S. Senators to help give older Americans clarity in what to expect in the future. The dynamic collaborative telehealth partnership between Congress and the Trump administration has allowed our seniors to receive the health care they need during these uncertain times.
The relationship between the physician and patient is one that develops over a long period of time. This close partnership is crucial for the overall wellness for our elders, but for it to remain, our physicians need to be compensated by Medicare for their care whether it is in the office, facetime, skype or telephone-only. We appreciate CMS and HHS for recognizing this during the coronavirus and see the progress being made nationally with their decision.
As for next steps, we trust CMS and HHS will answer these U.S. Senators and give them a clear action plan. We hope it will be one that recognizes the value of doctor's assisting older Americans over the telephone, especially those who struggle with technology.