I think that we can all agree that the statement “COVID-19 has brought change” is an understatement. Last March everything came to a crashing and sudden halt. Doctors’ offices providing elective healthcare like dentists and eye exams closed because of safety concerns. As doctors offices re-open and new processes are put in place, one nagging question remains for patients … How do I see my doctor now?
Before coronavirus (who would have that a phrase like that would become part of our normal discourse?!?!?), if you needed or wanted to see your doctor, you would make an appointment and physically go there to talk with and receive care from your doctor.
COVID-19 changed everything.
After coronavirus, unless it is essential to go into the doctor’s office for certain types of care, seeing and receiving care from your doctor typically occurs virtually via telehealth. Even before COVID-19, telehealth was (and still is) the usual method of getting healthcare in rural areas or where access to certain types of care is limited. Studies have shown that telehealth is safe and it works.
So why didn’t doctors everywhere use this method more often?
There are a few reasons, but the most common is money. Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies paid less for telehealth visits than they did for in-person visits. So doctors made more money seeing you in person. As we all know, coronavirus has impacted everything, even (believe it or not) what Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance paid for. After coronavirus, Medicare and insurance companies expanded the telehealth services that they covered and paid doctors at close to the same rate as an office visit.
Many of these changes related to telehealth will end on October 22, 2020. If the Federal government extends Public Health Emergency declaration initially issued in March 2020, it then would extend the telehealth benefit. Many organizations are lobbying Medicare and Medicaid to continue the telehealth benefit regardless of the Public Health Emergency declaration. In June 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid proposed a rule that would make the expanded use of telehealth permanent even after the pandemic has passed. That rule is currently under consideration.
However, some insurance companies have already started to cut back on the services they will pay for using telehealth. So when making a telehealth appointment with your doctor, make sure your visit is covered and how much the copay is!
Other companies are starting to offer telehealth. For example, Sam’s Club now offers a quarterly subscription based telehealth benefit for members for $1 per visit. Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid all offer telehealth whether you have insurance or not. Wonders of wonders the Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid benefits are here to stay.
This blog is part of a webinar I did for Knowledgeable Aging (you can also watch it here). With all of the changes resulting from COVID-19, seeing a doctor and receiving healthcare has changed. This topic dealt with “How do I see my doctor now”. This is also available on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts.