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Federal Telehealth Actions Related to COVID-19

Medicare Telehealth Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • March 30, 2020: CMS issues final interim rule to help the U.S. health care system respond to COVID-19. The rule builds on prior action to promote telehealth services in Medicare, allowing more than 80 additional services to be furnished via telehealth, including  telephone evaluation and management services (CPT codes 99441-99443) and radiation treatment management (77427).
  • March 18, 2020: President Trump signs into law H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. In addition to other provisions in the law to enhance paid leave and unemployment compensation, Section 6010 clarifies that new Medicare beneficiaries are able to access telehealth services under the emergency authority granted to the Secretary in H.R. 6074. Text of H.R. 6201 is here.
  • March 17, 2020: CMS Issues Medicare Telehealth Health Care Provider Fact Sheet, which clarifies the new telehealth flexibilities under H.R. 6074 and the President’s emergency declaration. Main takeaways include:
    • Effective for services starting March 6, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, Medicare will make payment for Medicare telehealth services furnished to patients in broader circumstances.
    • These visits are considered the same as in-person visits and are paid at the same rate as regular, in-person visits.
    • Starting March 6, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Medicare will make payment for professional services furnished to beneficiaries in all areas of the country in all settings.
    • While they must generally travel to or be located in certain types of originating sites such as a physician’s office, skilled nursing facility or hospital for the visit, effective for services starting March 6, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Medicare will make payment for Medicare telehealth services furnished to beneficiaries in any healthcare facility and in their home.
    • The Medicare coinsurance and deductible would generally apply to these services. However, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) is providing flexibility for healthcare providers to reduce or waive cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by federal healthcare programs. More on this here.
    • To the extent the 1135 waiver requires an established relationship, HHS will not conduct audits to ensure that such a prior relationship existed for claims submitted during this public health emergency.
  • March 16, 2020: HHS issues COVID-19 and HIPAA Bulletin on Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties During a Nationwide Public Health Emergency.
  • March 13, 2020: President Trump issues Declaration of National Emergency under the National Emergencies Act, which allows the HHS Secretary to exercise authority under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act to waive certain requirements of Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children’s Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule throughout the duration of the emergency.
  • March 10, 2020: CMS issues memo informing MA and Part D plans of the flexibilities they have to provide healthcare coverage to Medicare beneficiaries for COVID-19 testing, treatments, and prevention.
  • March 6, 2020: President Trump signs into law H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020. Section 102 provides secretarial authority for Medicare coverage of telehealth services during certain emergencies, pursuant to a Section 1135 waiver. Text of H.R. 6074 is here and a summary is here.
  • March 5, 2020: CMS issues a factsheet with guidance for health care providers and patients on existing Medicare coverage/payment policy related to COVID-19, including virtual check-ins.
  • January 31, 2020: HHS Secretary Alex Azar declares COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency.