Expansion of Telehealth in Medicare
Expansion of Telehealth Services
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued another round of sweeping regulatory waivers and rule changes to deliver expanded care to the nation’s seniors and provide flexibility to the healthcare system as America reopens. These changes making it easier to increase access to telehealth for Medicare patients so they can get care from their physicians and other clinicians while staying safely at home. CMS directed a historic expansion of telehealth services so that doctors and other providers can deliver a wider range of care to Medicare beneficiaries in their homes. Beneficiaries thus don’t have to travel to a healthcare facility and risk exposure to COVID-19.
- For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, CMS is waiving limitations on the types of clinical practitioners that can furnish Medicare telehealth services. Prior to this change, only doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certain others could deliver telehealth services. Now, other practitioners are able to provide telehealth services, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists.
- Hospitals may bill for services furnished remotely by hospital-based practitioners to Medicare patients registered as hospital outpatients, including when the patient is at home when the home is serving as a temporary provider-based department of the hospital. Examples of such services include counseling and educational service as well as therapy services. This change expands the types of healthcare providers that can provide using telehealth technology.
- Hospitals may bill as the originating site for telehealth services furnished by hospital-based practitioners to Medicare patients registered as hospital outpatients, including when the patient is located at home.
- CMS previously announced that Medicare would pay for certain services conducted by audio-only telephone between beneficiaries and their doctors and other clinicians. Now, CMS is broadening that list to include much behavioral health and patient education services. CMS is also increasing payments for these telephone visits to match payments for similar office and outpatient visits. This would increase payments for these services from a range of about $14-$41 to about $46-$110. The payments are retroactive to March 1, 2020.
- Until now, CMS only added new services to the list of Medicare services that may be furnished via telehealth using its rulemaking process. CMS is changing its process during the emergency and will add new telehealth services on a sub-regulatory basis, considering requests by practitioners now learning to use telehealth as broadly as possible. This will speed up the process of adding services.
- As mandated by the CARES Act, CMS is paying for Medicare telehealth services provided by rural health clinics and federally qualified health clinics. Previously, these clinics could not be paid to provide telehealth expertise as ‘distant sites.’ Now, Medicare beneficiaries located in rural and other medically underserved areas will have more options to access care from their home without having to travel
- Since some Medicare beneficiaries don’t have access to interactive audio-video technology that is required for Medicare telehealth services or choose not to use it even if offered by their practitioner, CMS is waiving the video requirement for certain telephone evaluation and management services, and adding them to the list of Medicare telehealth services. As a result, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to use an audio-only telephone to get these services.
Stay connected with us for updated billing resources on telehealth/telemedicine. If you need any assistance in medical billing and coding services, you can call E2E Medical Billing Services at 888-552-1290 or write to us at info@e2eMedicalBilling.com