Health Highlights: Aug. 4, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Medicare Should Expand Telehealth: Trump

President Donald Trump signed an order on Monday that will broaden the role of telehealth for Medicare patients, the Associated Press reported.

Although the executive order is limited to rural patients, the administration is sending a signal to Congress pass legislation to permanently use telehealth as an option for all Medicare recipients, the wire service reported.

The administration is “taking action to make sure telehealth is here to stay,” Trump said.

The executive order also sets up an experiment whereby hospitals in rural areas can receive predictable Medicare payments in exchange for better performance on some measures of quality, the AP reported.

The order directs the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and the Federal Communications Commission to work to build an infrastructure that supports telehealth in rural areas.

Services telehealth can handle include emergency room visits, nurse consultations and speech and occupational therapy.

Medicare has already expanded its coverage for telehealth due to the coronavirus pandemic. But that will end in most areas when the emergency ends.

The administration has authority to expand some services in rural areas, but Congress must pass a broader program, according to the AP.

Telehealth has been popular among Medicare patients because it’s a way to keep older patients safe and avoid catching the virus by going out for doctor appointments.

In the last week of April, nearly 2 million Medicare patients used telehealth. Only thousands had used the program before the pandemic, the AP noted.

“In an earlier age, doctors commonly made house calls,” Seema Verma, the Medicare Administrator, said in a statement. “Given how effectively and efficiently the health care system has adapted to the advent of telehealth, it’s become increasingly clear that it is poised to resurrect that tradition in modern form.”


McDonald’s, Target and Gap Say Shoppers Must Wear Masks

As the pandemic coronavirus continues to ravage the country, McDonald’s, Target and Gap will now require both staff and shoppers to wear face masks, CBS News reported Saturday.

McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempczinski told “CBS This Morning” the company made the change in response to the pandemic.

More than 155,000 Americans had died from the virus according to Johns Hopkins University and over 4.6 million have been infected with COVID-19.

“We’ve for quite some time required our crew to wear masks, but we thought that in light of what we’re seeing, it’s prudent now that we also ask our customers to wear masks in the restaurant as well,” Kempczinski told CBS.

Gap Inc. and Target have instituted a similar policy.

About 90% of Target stores required customers to wear masks due to local and state regulations, but the policy is being spread “to include guests at all stores nationwide,” the retailer said in a statement.

Gap said,”given the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and Canada, we want to do everything we can to help stop the spread of the virus.” Their policy includes Old Navy and Banana Republic stores, CBS reported.

Many Americans, however, resist wearing masks even though the scientists say they can help save lives. Some companies have backtracked on policies requiring masks, CBS noted.

Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, for example, no longer mandate masks, while Lowe’s said it wouldn’t enforce a face mask policy days after it started it.

Some stores are concerned that enforcing mask requirements could put workers at risk, noting that violent incidents have occurred.

Walmart and CVS said they will limit enforcing the mask mandate. McDonald’s Kempczinski told CBS he did not rule out getting authorities involved if customers who refuse to wear masks cause trouble.

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