CMS again expands telehealth services covered by Medicare
Monday, October 19, 2020
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced it is adding 11 new telehealth services that Medicare will reimburse. This is the first addition to the Medicare telehealth services list since May 1, 2020.
Per CMS, Medicare will begin paying eligible caregivers who furnish these newly added telehealth services — effective immediately — throughout the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Officials renewed the emergency declaration for another 90 days earlier this month.
These new telehealth services include some neurostimulator analyses and programming services and cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services.
According to CMS, additional coverages are part of a push to accelerate telehealth use by removing reimbursement barriers.
CMS also said it is providing more support to state Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) agencies to expand access to telehealth, building on the back of President Trump’s Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access — “to improve the health of all Americans by increasing access to better care.
“Responding to President Trump’s Executive Order, CMS is taking action to increase telehealth adoption across the country,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in the CMS statement. “This revolutionary method of improving access to care is transforming healthcare delivery in America. President Trump will not let the genie go back into the bottle.”
Verma said some of the changes to Medicare telehealth reimbursement might remain after the pandemic.
The additions bring coverage to a total of 144 telehealth services by Medicare.
"Between mid-March and mid-August 2020, more than 12.1 million Medicare beneficiaries — over 36% —of people with Medicare Fee-For-Service have received a telemedicine service," CMS said in a release.
CMS also released a new toolkit (PDF) to give states more guidance on expanding the use of telehealth in Medicaid and CHIP. The toolkit provides examples to help states identify services accessible via telehealth and how telehealth is reimbursed after the public health emergency expires.
As the pandemic gained ground throughout the country, CMS loosened the reins on the types of telehealth services covered. For example, reimbursement at parity for an in-person visit has been instrumental in helping patients receive distance-based care while reimbursing caregivers the same rates as they receive for in-person visits. For patients, expanded telehealth capabilities were a blessing during the pandemic; for physicians and their practices, telemedicine allowed them to continue practicing, to some degree, while elective procedures and other care were shelved.
According to reporting, during the PHE, there have been more than 34 million services delivered via telehealth to Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries between March and June 2020. That’s an increase of about 2,600% compared to the same period last year.
Other added covered services include emergency department visits, initial inpatient and nursing facility visits, and discharge day management services.
Between mid-March and mid-August 2020, more than 12.1 million Medicare beneficiaries — more than 36% — of people with Medicare fee-for-service have received care through telemedicine.
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