Issue Brief – Medicare and Telehealth: Coverage and Use During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Options for the Future

An issue brief published by Kaiser Family Foundation dives into the rapid expansion of telehealth during the pandemic. For example, among the vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries with a usual source of care (95%), such as a doctor or other health professional, or a clinic, nearly two-thirds (64% or 33.6 million) say that their provider currently offers telehealth appointments, up from 18% who said their provider offered telehealth before the pandemic.

But nearly a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries (23%) say they don’t know if their provider offers telehealth appointments, and this percentage is larger among beneficiaries who live in rural areas (30%).

Other notes from this issue brief related to older adults include the following:

  • Among Medicare beneficiaries who had a telehealth visit, a majority (56%) report accessing care using a telephone only, while a smaller share had a telehealth visit via video (28%) or both video and telephone (16%). The share of Medicare beneficiaries who had a telehealth visit using telephone only was higher among those age 75 and older (65%), Hispanic beneficiaries (61%), those living in rural areas (65%), and those enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid (67%).
  • More than half (53%) of beneficiaries under the age of 65 (who qualify for Medicare due to a long-term disability) had a telehealth visit, compared to 42% of those age 65 to 74 and 43% of those age 75 or older.
  • Among the 33.6 million Medicare beneficiaries with a usual source of care who reported that their provider currently offers telehealth appointments, nearly half (45%) said they had a telehealth visit with a doctor or other health professional between the summer (July) and fall of 2020. This translates to just over 1 in 4 (27% or 15 million) of all community-dwelling beneficiaries in both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage using telehealth during this time period

For more information, see the issue brief here.