Urban Medicare recipients use telehealth the most: OIG

Medicare beneficiaries who live in urban areas, Hispanic people and women are some of the groups that used telehealth the most in the first year of the pandemic, according to a new report from the HHS Office of Inspector General.

The September report will be used to help CMS and federal lawmakers understand which groups benefited the most from temporary Medicare telehealth services and guide decisions about which policies should become permanent. 

The report used data from traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries who used telehealth services from March 1, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021.

Six key takeaways:

  1. Forty-five percent of beneficiaries in urban areas (24 million) used telehealth, compared to 33 percent (3 million) in rural areas.

  1. Fifty-three percent of beneficiaries dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid used telehealth, compared to 40 percent of Medicare-only beneficiaries.

  1. Among racial groups, 48 percent of Hispanic beneficiaries, 45 percent of Black beneficiaries, and 42 percent of both Asian/Pacific Islander and white beneficiaries used telehealth.

  1. Among age groups, 49 percent of beneficiaries under the age of 65, 38 percent of beneficiaries between 65 and 74, and 47 percent of beneficiaries 75 and up used telehealth.

  1. Forty-six percent of female beneficiaries used telehealth compared to 39 percent of male beneficiaries.

  1. Almost 1 in 5 beneficiaries used audio-only telehealth services. Among them, the vast majority used audio-only exclusively.

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