Top Medicare administrator says White House expanding telehealth services for seniors amid coronavirus

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Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, on Wednesday discussed the importance of expanding telehealth services to American seniors in the Medicare program, which she said is about  62 million people.

Speaking on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday, as the total confirmed coronavirus cases reached more than 6,400 cases in the U.S., according to data compiled by Fox News, Verma said the move “keeps people safe” and “helps our health care providers focus on the people who have the most dire health care needs.”

“If you’re a diabetic patient, you may not even have any symptoms around the coronavirus, no respiratory disease, and if you come into the office and you’re sitting in the waiting room, you are having to travel, you could potentially get sick,” Verma said.

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She added, “For people that are showing symptoms, it’s better for them to communicate with their doctor through telehealth and that means they’re not infecting additional people through their travel to the doctor’s office or by sitting in a waiting room.”

Calling it a "historic breakthrough," the Trump administration Tuesday announced an expansion of telehealth services for seniors in an effort to prevent Americans from visiting doctor’s offices in person and risk spreading or catching the novel coronavirus.

“Medicare patients can now visit any doctor by phone or videoconference at no additional cost," Trump said during a White House press briefing, noting this will help seniors given the coronavirus'  respiratory impact often results in particularly severe symptoms for seniors.

Using "telehealth," patients can -- among other services -- consult with a medical professional via mobile phone or computer.

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“With telehealth they [seniors] can now get to see their doctor, talk to their doctor and they can do that from the safety of their home,” Verma explained on Wednesday. “In the past, Medicare only paid for telehealth services in rural areas, very short visits and it also required them to have a longstanding relationship with their provider, but now, with the coronavirus, we’re expanding telehealth services.”

Fox Business’ DeArbea Walker contributed to this report.