Many in our community are concerned about access to vital medical services, whether because clinics and offices are closed or because they are personally trying to limit their chances of contracting COVID-19. Here are some details about increased telehealth services and preserving medication access.
Telehealth OK for scheduled drugs
The Drug Enforcement Agency has lifted requirements for in-person office visits for refills of medications classified as controlled substances, and is allowing telemedicine visits in their place, so long as some basic standards are met. This exemption will last for the duration of the public health emergency. Learn more here.
Medicare increases telehealth coverage
Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services for the duration of the public health emergency. During this time, Medicare enrollees will be able to receive a specific set of services through telehealth, including evaluation and management visits (common office visits), mental health counseling, and preventive screenings. Medicare has also eased restrictions on home infusions. Learn more about the new policies here.
Private insurer telehealth coverage
In general, we’ve seen a positive trend toward private insurers offering increased coverage of telehealth services. Some insurers are even waiving copays for telehealth visits. Please check directly with your insurer for details. America’s Health Insurance Plans has a good overview of several major insurers’ policy updates in response to the pandemic. Read more here.
Lost insurance due to unemployment
If you or your spouse have lost your health insurance because of unemployment, you have three options: COBRA (a law ensuring people who lose their jobs have the option of continuing enrollment for up to 18 months, sometimes longer); Medicaid (if you meet certain income thresholds); and marketplace insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Learn more through this helpful article from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Medical cannabis access
So far, we’ve seen many state governments allowing medical dispensaries to stay open as essential businesses. Please check with your state government website for specific details about your area. Americans for Safe Access also has a great resource.
Pharmacies are currently considered essential businesses and are open. However, if you want to limit contact, keep in mind that many pharmacies offer home delivery of medications. Check with your pharmacy to see what options are available for you.
COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color nationwide. This is a great resource about your rights from the National Disability Rights Network.
- “Out-Patient Pain Management in the Midst of the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency.” Zoom webinar presented April 1, 2020, by David Tauben, MD, Chief of Pain Medicine for University of Washington Medicine.
- American Academy for Pain Medicine “Pain Management Best Practices from Multispecialty Organizations during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Public Health Crises”
- American Medical Association policy recommendations for patients with pain
- AHRQ-sponsored guidelines on pain management during COVID-19
- Disability Toolkit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Practical Pain Management has an excellent round-up of COVID-19-related resources and information