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Medicare expands telehealth benefit through end of COVID-19 public health emergency

Federal RegulationsCoronavirusMedicareTelemedicine
Mar 19, 2020

On March 17, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare would expand telehealth coverage to enable beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility. Beginning with claims for services on March 6, 2020, Medicare will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries residing across the entire country.

Prior to this announcement, Medicare was only allowed to pay clinicians for telehealth services such as routine visits in certain circumstances. For example, the beneficiary receiving the services must live in a rural area and travel to a local medical facility to get telehealth services from a doctor in a remote location. In addition, the beneficiary would generally not be allowed to receive telehealth services in their home.A range of healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, will be able to offer telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries will be able to receive telehealth services in any healthcare facility including a physician’s office, hospital, nursing home or rural health clinic, as well as from their homes. Telehealth services are paid under the Physician Fee Schedule at the same amount as in-person services. Medicare coinsurance and deductible still apply for these services. Additionally, 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.

The telehealth waiver will be effective until the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declared by the Secretary of HHS on January 31, 2020 ends. To learn more, please read the CMS fact sheet and frequently asked questions about this expansion of the telehealth benefit.

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