On October 14, 2020, CMS added eleven (11) new services to its Medicare telehealth list that are payable during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). This latest expansion of telehealth services is the first to use the new, expedited process that CMS established in May 2020. CMS has also announced additional support to state Medicaid agencies to expand access to telehealth. According to CMS, these developments are consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access, issued on August 3, 2020.
Effective May 1, 2020, CMS’s COVID-19 Interim Final Rule with comment period (IFC) expanded Medicare coverage for eligible practitioners who furnish certain telehealth services for the duration of the PHE. In the IFC, CMS announced revisions to its regulations that allowed it temporarily to expand its list of telehealth services reimbursable under Medicare without following the normal notice-and-comment rulemaking process. Instead, CMS could update its telehealth services list through an expedited, sub-regulatory process.
Under this expedited process, CMS has now added eleven (11) new services to the Medicare telehealth services list since its last May 2020 update. CMS’s list of Medicare-reimbursable telehealth services now includes approximately 144 services. These latest telehealth services added to the list include certain neurostimulator analysis and programming services, and cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services. The list of these newly added services is available here.
CMS has also released a supplement to its State Medicaid and CHIP Telehealth toolkit intended to help states further implement telehealth. According to CMS, these resources “explain and clarify to providers and other stakeholders which policies are temporary or permanent . . . [and] helps states identify services that can be accessed through telehealth, which providers may deliver those services, the ways providers may use in order to deliver services through telehealth, as well as the circumstances under which telehealth can be reimbursed once the PHE expires.”
These initiatives follow an August 3, 2020 Executive Order in which President Trump directed the Secretary of HHS to improve CMS’s temporary telehealth measures put in place during the PHE and even extend certain measures, as appropriate, beyond the duration of the PHE.