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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed a permanent expansion of telehealth to ensure healthcare access in rural areas.
The push for telehealth started in 2019 when CMS approved payments to physicians for virtual check-ins. This expansion is in part thanks to the Fostering Innovation and Rethinking Rural Health strategic initiative, which seeks to modernize Medicare through private sector innovation, according to a news release.
The circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic led to expanded payment for telehealth services and allowed for flexibility to ensure care was being provided to Medicare beneficiaries without the risking their health. Prior to the pandemic, only 14,000 beneficiaries received Medicare telehealth service in a week. Now, more than 10.1 million beneficiaries have received the service, the release says.