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COVID-19 Update | Just Announced CMS Expands Telehealth Reimbursement

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) just announced another round of regulatory waivers and rule changes to ensure Americans can receive healthcare through video and phone-based services during the COVID19 emergency.

These changes address concerns raised by several groups about seniors, low-income families, or those in rural areas lacking the ability for video and broadband necessary to utilize telehealth technology. Additionally, CMS is now allowing more types of care providers to use telehealth and audio platforms.

Here is an overview of the main items within these new changes*:

  • CMS is waiving limitations on the types of care providers eligible for Medicare reimbursement, thus allowing physical and occupational therapists and speech language pathologists.
  • Hospitals can now bill for outpatient services furnished remotely by hospital-based practitioners, including telehealth to patients at home – considered a “temporary provider-based department of the hospital.” They can now bill Medicare as the originating site for telehealth services furnished to those patients.
  • CMS is expanding the list of audio-only phone services reimbursable through Medicare to include many behavioral health and patient education services, and the agency is increase reimbursements for those services to match similar office or outpatient services, retroactive to March 1.
  • The agency is speeding up the process by which it adds new services to the list of telehealth services reimbursable under Medicare.
  • Federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics will now be reimbursed for providing telehealth services.
  • CMS is waiving the video requirement for certain evaluation and management services, enabling providers to bill Medicare for services delivered by audio-only phones.

Other changes CMS announced in the same press release include paperwork/administrative flexibilities, healthcare workforce augmentation, increase of hospital capacities and services outside of hospitals, and expanded testing and sampling.

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