On March 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an additional temporary expansion of telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries. CMS’s announcement of this new reimbursement flexibility builds on its prior expansion of telehealth services to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every day, heroic nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers are dedicating long hours to their patients. This means sacrificing time with their families and risking their very lives to care for coronavirus patients,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Front line healthcare providers need to be able to focus on patient care in the most flexible and innovative ways possible.”
With this increased promotion of telehealth, CMS is further allowing Medicare beneficiaries to receive care where there are by:
- Adding more than 80 services to the list of services payable under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule when furnished via telehealth, including emergency department visits, initial nursing facility and discharge visits, critical care services, home visits for new and established patients, and physical and operational therapy services;
- Allowing clinicians to provide Virtual Check-In services to new patients in the same manner as they previously could provide only to established patients;
- Allowing licensed clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists to provide e-visits;
- Allowing clinicians to provide certain services by audio phone only to their patients;
- Allowing clinicians to provide Remote Patient Monitoring, for acute or chronic conditions, to both new and established patients;
- Removing certain frequency limitations on Medicare telehealth;
- Expanding the use of telehealth to certain home health and hospice services; and
- Expanding the definition of “homebound” so that when a physician determines that a Medicare beneficiary should not leave the home due to suspected or confirmed COVID-19, the patient can qualify for the Medicare Home Health benefit.
Additional guidance can be found on the CMS Coronavirus Waivers & Flexibility page. Importantly, CMS’s expansion of telehealth services does not affect state licensure or regulatory requirements, some of which have also been relaxed during this time. The temporary expansion of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries will remain in place for the duration of the public health emergency.