Telehealth was critical for providing services to Medicare beneficiaries during the first year of the pandemic, concludes a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General. Over 28 million Medicare beneficiaries used telehealth between March 2020 and February 2021, during which telehealth comprised 43% of Medicare behavioral health services and 13% of Medicare office visits, “demonstrating the long-term potential of telehealth to increase access to health care for beneficiaries,” OIG said.  The report calls these findings important to take into account as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Congress and other stakeholders consider changes to telehealth in Medicare, such as changes to the telehealth services allowed on a permanent basis.

The AHA has made protecting access to telehealth services a top priority. Congress extended certain telehealth flexibilities for 151 days after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency as part of the omnibus spending package the president signed this week. 
 

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