Focused On Health Care Law

Medicare’s telehealth services permanently expanded

| Dec 28, 2020 | Firm News |

One of the many changes the pandemic has made to Michigan life is in the management of health care. Telehealth (also referred to as “telemedicine”) has become commonplace – and patients are apparently OK with that.

A recent Harvard Business Review poll of more than one million patients found that “patients were just as likely — or even slightly more likely — to give high ratings to their care providers after telemedicine visits compared with in-person care.”

A recent announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) makes it clear that the use of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries are here to stay, even after the Covid-19 pandemic has concluded.

CMS released the annual Physician Fee Schedule final rule (“Final Rule”) in December 2020.

Pandemic-forced change

Before the pandemic, only about 15,000 Medicare beneficiaries received weekly telehealth visits. However, because of virus transmission concerns, CMS added more than 100 telehealth services covered by Medicare.

By the end of April, more than 1.2 million Medicare beneficiaries were receiving weekly telehealth services. However, some services, including emergency department visits, discharge management services and initial inpatient and nursing facility visits were scheduled to expire when the public health emergency ended.

Sixty telehealth services added

The recently released Final Rule permanently adds nine telehealth services that will be covered by Medicare in rural regions. It also extends Medicare reimbursement eligibility for 60 telehealth services across all regions after the pandemic.

A National Law Review article notes that the 60 services include critical care services, emergency department visits and therapy services.

The Final Rule follows the release of the Health and Human Services rule that allows providers more flexibility and eases compliance burdens in value-based arrangements. Both changes are designed to enable full, long-term adaptation of telehealth services.