Telehealth is Here to Stay, But What About Payment?

July 7, 2020 · Jazmyne Carter

COVID-19 brought a lot of adjustments. Telehealth is one of them.

Now, there are plans in place to permanently expand reimbursement for telehealth services.

The Trump administration took action to open access to telehealth. But the changes to reimbursement policies are temporary.  So, health care professionals want to know, will regulatory flexibility on reimbursement continue?

Telehealth Expansion Highlights 

In mid-March, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced major steps to expand Americans’ access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Later on, the HHS Office for Civil Rights announced temporary flexibilities for providers to use non HIPAA-compliant virtual platforms like Skype and FaceTime for telehealth visits.

By the end of March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allowed more than 100 additional services through telehealth.

“The patient trust barrier has been broken. There is no going back,” said Will Brady, an HHS official. “Telehealth is now the preferred method. People want this as the first site of care. We are seeing a demand from consumers.”

Bottom line, what was once a necessity is now in high demand for convenience.

But what is it going to cost? How do we decide what changes should be permanent?

What’s Next?

Be on the lookout for the upcoming agency’s annual proposed Physician Fee Schedule rule. It typically publishes in July.

According to Analyst, Emily Yoder, “The changes that we can make through the standard rule-making process, actions such as adding services to the telehealth list and making those permanent, those will appear in the physician fee rule.”

Yoder went on to share that practitioners and stakeholders should be on the lookout and for CMS proposals and provide comments. Their experiences will help CMS decide on what telehealth flexibilities should be permanent.

Some changes will need congressional action to make Medicare reimbursement telehealth policy changes permanent.

The health care world is hard at work. Decisions are being made and your opinion as a health care professional, matters. Watch out for the latest from CMS. Be a part of the discussion. Again, telehealth is here to stay. So let’s narrow down what telehealth rules are here to stay.

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