What you need to know

  • If you are on Medicare, you can continue to access telehealth services from your home or anywhere else in the country through at least 2024.
  • If you need a controlled substance like Adderall or buprenorphine, you can continue to use telehealth to get a prescription until at least November 11, 2023.
  • Federal programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program and Lifeline can help you pay for the internet if you need it for telehealth services.

The pandemic has changed our lives in many ways, including the way in which we access health care. The COVID-19 public health emergency granted many temporary flexibilities around telehealth. Now, many of those accommodations are extending beyond the pandemic era.

Telehealth flexibilities over the last few years have made it easier for people across the country to access care remotely, whether from the comfort of their home or another location. As a result, the use of telehealth services rose exponentially: Compared to pre-pandemic levels, telehealth use is now 38 times higher.

This access has been key for patients who face difficulties traveling to health care providers, such as those who live in rural areas or have a disability. Telehealth services have also become especially popular for mental health care.

The flexibilities around telehealth were set to expire along with the public health emergency in May, but many are being extended as experts study the effects of increased access. Below, we provide a guide to what remote health care services remain in place and how you can access them.

Telehealth for Medicare

Some telehealth flexibilities for Medicare patients are being extended through the end of 2024, while others are becoming permanent. Through 2024, Medicare patients will continue to be able to access telehealth services from anywhere in the country. Some of these visits can also be conducted over voice-only calls through 2024.

When it comes to mental health care, many of the emergency-era telehealth flexibilities are now permanent. Medicare patients can continue to receive mental telehealth services, such as counseling or psychotherapy, indefinitely. Mental telehealth visits can also be conducted over voice-only calls.

Telehealth for Medicaid and private insurance

Telehealth access for patients on Medicaid or private insurance varies by state and provider, but most states and many private insurers have expanded their coverage to include it. You can look up what kind of coverage your state provides with this policy finder tool. Contact your insurance company directly to find out what kind of coverage it provides.

Telehealth for controlled substances

During the public health emergency, the Drug Enforcement Administration allowed doctors to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine. This meant that patients didn’t need an in-person visit to get a prescription for drugs like Adderall, which helps manage ADHD, and buprenorphine, which helps treat opioid use disorder.

The DEA had initially planned to roll back these flexibilities at the end of the public health emergency. But after receiving more than 38,000 public comments on the proposed rollback, the agency decided to extend the flexibilities for a few more months as it reviews the comments. 

For now, any doctor-patient telehealth relationship established on or before November 11, 2023, will be allowed to use telehealth for controlled substance prescriptions through November 11, 2024.

How to access telehealth

The Department of Health and Human Services provides an informational website on what telehealth is and how to access it. You can either contact your current health care provider and ask about telehealth options with them or find new telehealth care through your insurance provider. Some health centers also provide telehealth services and do so regardless of your ability to pay.

If you need help accessing the internet, check if you are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program or Lifeline. Both federal programs help households pay for internet access. Eligibility is typically based on income, and you automatically qualify if you are on programs such as Medicaid.