Online Doctors & Therapists in the Time of Corona


Today’s Updates (Updated March 26)

Eleven states have opened enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow laid-off workers to get subsidized health insurance.

Are you looking for The Perfect Cure for Social DistancingWe found it.

For anyone who is homebound or sheltering in place: Food. Rent. Internet. Unemployment. Paid Leave. Student Loans. Grocery Delivery. Love. Bills. What to Do During School Closings. Read All of Today’s Updates

Online Doctors & Therapists

We are happy to report that you might now be able to meet with a doctor or therapist online. This is certainly good news for many of homebound and bedridden folks who have had no way to get to a doctor. Sometimes for years.

Who Covers Online Visits

Medicare has just announced that they will pay for online visits at the same rate as in-person visits. Medicare fact sheet on telemedicine during Coronavirus.

We don’t know if Medicaid and private insurance will also pay for this now, but if Medicare does, it’s likely others will follow. Stay tuned and comment below if you find out more.

Update: Some states are now updating their policies to allow Medicaid to pay for online visits with doctors and therapists. Here’s an example from North Carolina.

The rules below are for Medicare, however many Medicaid and other insurance programs may be somewhat similar.

Will This Be a Permanent Change?

Right now these changes are all temporary. We are hoping this will lead the way for more permanent changes now that all doctor’s offices will have already put systems in place. Online Doctors & Therapists in the Time of Corona

Two Kinds of Visits

The new rules for online visits outline two kinds of visits:

Telehealth visits: A full doctor’s appointment, conducted online. Medicare will treat this just like a regular visit and pay the doctor the same rate. This must take place in real time

Virtual Check ins: A brief communication with your doctor. Medicare can pay for the doctor’s time. It is not possible if you had a visit with this doctor within the last seven days or have an upcoming visit in the next 24 hours. This can take place online or through “synchronous discussion over a telephone or exchange of information through video or image.” We are unclear what this is? Please comment below if you know more.

You Must Ask

The request for an online visit must be “patient initiated.” You may need to make the request. Though some doctor’s offices are putting out general announcements that they have the service available.

Established Patients

The new rule also specifies that this is only available to “established patients.” This typically means you can only go to a doctor you have seen at some point in the past.

However, the regulations also indicates that they do not plan to check and see which patients are established. Here’s what the language is: “To the extent the waiver requires that the patient have a prior established relationship with a particular practitioner, HHS will not conduct audits to ensure that such a prior relationship existed for claims submitted during this public health emergency.”

If a new doctor cannot bill your insurance because you are not an established patient, you might try asking if you can have a very brief visit with them that you pay for yourself. Then you will be established!

Find a Doc

Check with your doctor or with other practitioners in your area to see if they are able and willing to do online visits with you. You may even be able to see someone located really far away. Worth asking!

Here’s a little list of beloved and helpful doctors recommended by our readers who are disabled with ME, CFS, and related conditions. What Doctor Was the Most Helpful in Documenting Your Symptoms?

Find a Therapist

There’s a good directory of therapists at Psychology Today – Find a Therapist. Some listings specifically say that they take online appointments, but even if they don’t, they might now!

Testing. Testing.

It will be interesting to see if any doctors will now be able and willing to do specialized testing online. One that springs to mind is neuropsychological testing, which doesn’t require any special equipment.

Neuropsychological testing is the number one type of testing our readers said they found most helpful when applying for disability with ME, CFS, Lyme, Mental health issues, Fibromyalgia, Mold and Chemical injuries, and related conditions. Neuropsychological Testing While Applying for Disability

Medical Equipment

Medicare and some other insurance companies require a “face-to-face” assessment with a doctor to prescribe equipment. For example, you need to go to your doctor’s office if you need a wheelchair, scooter, walker, or hospital bed.

Now that online visits are being treated the same as in-person visits, you may have a window of opportunity: Oh My God. Homebound People Can Get Medical Equipment Now??!!

Call For Support

Paying for Visits

Remember ME

This blog was created by people with ME/CFS (Sometimes called “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”).

Being homebound is nothing new to us. Many of us have been homebound or bedridden for five, or ten, or twenty years.

There is now a great deal of support, understanding, and help available to people staying home during Coronavirus, but none of this was available to us all these years, and when Coronavirus is over, it may go away again.

As you go about your day, please take a moment to think about your homebound friends. You may be able to go back out someday, but we may never be able to.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s