CMS moves to solidify telehealth

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

WASHINGTON – CMS is proposing changes to expand telehealth permanently, following President Trump’s signing of the “Executive Order on Improving Rural and Telehealth Access” on Aug. 3. 

In a 2021 Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule, CMS takes steps to extend the availability of certain telemedicine services after the public health emergency ends, giving Medicare beneficiaries more convenient ways to access health care, particularly in rural areas where access to providers may limited, the agency says. 

“Telemedicine can never fully replace in-person care, but it can complement and enhance in-person care by furnishing one more powerful clinical tool to increase access and choices for America’s seniors,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.  

HHS recently extended the PHE through October. 

During the PHE, CMS has added 135 services, such as ER visits, initial in-patient and nursing facility visits, and discharge day management services, that can be paid for using telehealth. 

The agency is now proposing to permanently allow some of those services to be done through telehealth, including home visits for the evaluation and management of a patient (in the case where the law allows telehealth services in the patient’s home) and certain types of visits for patients with cognitive impairments. 

The agency seeks input on other services to be permanently added to the “telehealth list” to give clinicians and patients time as they get ready to provide in-person care again. 

CMS is also proposing to temporarily extend payment for other telehealth services, such as ER visits, through the calendar year in which the PHE ends. 

Public comments on the proposed rule are due Oct. 5.