With the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) set to end on May 11, the White House assured Americans this week that many major telehealth flexibilities will remain in place, particularly for people who live in rural areas and who struggle to find access to care.
In a May 9 fact sheet, the White House said it has taken steps to ensure all individuals have continued access to care after the PHE, including telehealth flexibilities, vaccines, and tests.
“The vast majority of current Medicare telehealth flexibilities that Americans have come to rely upon over the past two years, will remain in place through December 2024,” the fact sheet says. “And states already have significant flexibility with respect to covering and paying for Medicaid services delivered via telehealth.”
During the PHE, individuals with Medicare had broad access to telehealth services, without the geographic or location limits that usually apply. With the extension of these flexibilities through 2024, people with Medicare can access telehealth services anywhere, rather than only in rural areas.
According to a separate fact sheet from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), this also means that “certain telehealth visits can be delivered using audio-only technology (such as a telephone) if someone is unable to use both audio and video (such as a smartphone or computer).”
However, the CMS fact sheet says that if an individual receives routine home care via telehealth under the hospice benefit, this flexibility will end at the end of the PHE.
People with Medicare Advantage (MA) plans may have additional telehealth benefits, according to CMS, and should check with their plan for additional coverage information. Additionally, the agency said some Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) may continue to offer telehealth services after December 2024.
As for vaccines and tests, the White House said that access to these services – as well as treatments such as Paxlovid and Lagevrio – will generally not be affected in the months to come.
COVID-19 vaccines and treatments will continue to be provided at no cost with most insurance plans, as well as for the uninsured.
“After the transition to the traditional health care market, the HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] Bridge Access Program for COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments will provide broad access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments for uninsured Americans, which has been a critical component of the COVID-19 response,” the White House fact sheet says.
COVID-19 tests will continue to be accessible for all Americans at COVIDTests.gov until the end of this month. The Federal government will continue to provide access to tests for the uninsured through the Increasing Community Access To Testing Program (ICATT).