Expansion of Medicare telehealth services and ACA short-term health plans may be here to stay

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On August 3, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed to permanently maintain some of the COVID-19 temporary expansions to the Medicare Telehealth List and will consider comments on other telehealth expansions. CMS already covered a limited number of medical and mental health services through telehealth. The secretary of Health and Human Services may expand available telehealth services through the Physician Fee Schedule rulemaking, which have already been temporarily expanded due to COVID-19.

In July 2020, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the Trump administration’s 2018 expansion of short-term health plans that are exempt from the protections of the Affordable Care Act. The order permitted the three-month plans to offer up to one year of coverage.  Insurers and patient-advocacy groups sued the administration because of the dampening effect on the Exchange plans and loss of protections for covered individuals. The divided three-judge panel disagreed that the order was an impermissible expansion of ACA statutes. There are currently estimated to be more than half-a-million short-term plans covering several million Americans.

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