The use of telehealth has become indispensable across the country in recent months due to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)’s temporary expansion of payment for telehealth services. CMS reports that virtual visits for Medicare beneficiaries have jumped from approximately 14,000 per week pre-PHE to almost 1.7 million in the last week of April.
Now CMS has released proposed rules indicating its intention to expand payment for certain telehealth services permanently. The proposed rules are consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access issued August 3, 2020 which orders the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to review the temporary measures put in place during the PHE and extend telehealth services offered to Medicare beneficiaries as appropriate.
The services that CMS proposes adding to the Medicare telehealth list permanently include home visits for evaluation and management and care planning visits for patients with cognitive impairments. CMS also proposes extending payment for other telehealth services, including emergency department visits, through the end of the calendar year in which the PHE ends. Further, the proposed rules allow physicians to meet the definition of “direct supervision” of mid-level providers through the use of real-time, interactive audio and video technology through the end of the year in which the PHE ends. The extension through the end of the year of the PHE is intended to give CMS and providers time to consider whether these services should also be added to the Medicare telehealth list permanently.
CMS wants input from stakeholders regarding what services should be added to the Medicare telehealth list. The proposed rule is open for public comment until October 5th. To view the proposed rule, see CY 2021 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program proposed rule.