HealthMine: Only 12 percent of Medicare users say their health plan offers telemedicine

By Jonah Comstock
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A new survey from HealthMine of 500 Medicare users aged 65 and older suggests that most Medicare beneficiaries still either don’t have access to telemedicine options or aren’t aware of those options. Since the survey data is self-reported, it’s hard to tell which is the case.

Fifty-seven percent of seniors told HealthMine they didn’t know whether their plan offered telemedicine, while 31 percent said they were sure their plan didn’t. Just 12 percent offered an unqualified affirmative.

At least three senate bills have been introduced this year with the goal of expanding access to telemedicine for Medicare beneficiaries. Senate Bill 870, called Creating High Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017 (also referred to as CHRONIC), aims to hone in on Medicare payment reform in order to expand telemedicine services for chronic disease management and at-home care coordination. Senate Bill 787, the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, would require the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to “test the effect of including telehealth services in Medicare health care delivery reform models.” Senate Bill 1016, the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, aims to waive restrictions around Medicare telehealth coverage that many consider outdated or arbitrary.

The HealthMine survey also looked at Medicare beneficiaries’ access to their health records. When asked about digital access to medical history or electronic medical records, just 25 percent of respondents said they could easily access that information, with another 6 percent saying they could access it, but not easily. Twenty-one percent said they had no access to their records and 48 percent didn’t know what level of access they had.

HealthMine also asked about how respondents preferred to be contacted by their health plan. This is a space where digital technologies are still not being fully embraced: Just 31 percent wanted to communicate digitally with care providers, while 48 percent still preferred talking on the phone. The other 21 percent preferred to receive information by mail.

HealthMine tapped Survey Sampling International for the survey, which collected data via an opt-in panel.