Degrading Senior Healthcare for Rural Communities

Telehealth is being oversold as a way of providing healthcare to consumers. Clearly, telehealth works better for more upscale consumers. However, it’s what you do when the coronavirus is around.

Why is that?

Well, I just had an video appointment with my Primary Care Physician, whom I really like. It was a pleasant session, but there was a lot of stuff that we had to put off until the coronavirus quarantine is lifted.

  • The doctor can’t listen to your heart or lungs unless you have a special device allowing him to do that.
  • The doctor can’t get a blood pressure reading unless you own one and can use it yourself.
  • The ability of the doctor to see anything depends on the quality of equipment you own and your Internet service. As I’ve found in my insurance business, there are older consumers who don’t have Internet service or smartphones, so the doctor has no visual ability.

What’s changed?

Medicare originally required that insurers have a sufficient network of medical providers in an area in order to be able to offer Medicare Advantage policies in that area.

The Trump administration has just changed that rule to include doctors only available via telephone. This means that insurers can offer policies where they don’t have adequate networks of local doctors. It up to the insurer or the agent to make sure the policy will work for the consumer. This is going to be a particular problem in rural areas in which hospitals are closing and doctors are retiring and not being replaced.

Source: CMS press release, 22 May, 2020.

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