May 11th brings new telehealth policy changes: permanent Medicare adjustments, temporary Medicare changes through December 31, 2024, and temporary changes through the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has introduced various telehealth policy changes, both permanent and temporary, to improve healthcare access during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. This article breaks down these changes and their implications for healthcare organizations.
The COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) led to significant changes in telehealth policy, enabling healthcare providers to better serve their patients remotely.
As the PHE is set to end on May 11, 2023, which is tomorrow as of this post, it's essential for healthcare organizations to understand the permanent and temporary changes in telehealth policies.
Permanent Medicare Changes:
- Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) can serve as distant site providers for behavioral/mental telehealth services.
- Medicare patients can receive telehealth services for behavioral/mental health care in their homes.
- There are no geographic restrictions for originating sites for behavioral/mental telehealth services.
- Behavioral/mental telehealth services can be delivered using audio-only communication platforms.
- Rural hospital emergency departments are accepted as an originating site.
Temporary Medicare Changes through December 31, 2024:
- FQHCs/RHCs can serve as distant site providers for non-behavioral/mental telehealth services.
- Medicare patients can receive telehealth services authorized in the calendar year 2023 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule in their homes.
- There are no geographic restrictions for originating sites for non-behavioral/mental telehealth services.
- Some non-behavioral/mental telehealth services can be delivered using audio-only communication platforms.
- An in-person visit within six months of an initial behavioral/mental telehealth service, and annually thereafter, is not required.
- Telehealth services can be provided by a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, or audiologist.
Temporary Changes through the end of the COVID-19 PHE:
- Telehealth can be provided as an excepted benefit.
- Medicare-covered providers may use any non-public facing application to communicate with patients without risking federal penalties, even if the application isn’t in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
In the face of rising inflation and staffing shortages, healthcare executives must adapt and innovate by leveraging the most salient policy changes. The expansion of telehealth services, now accessible to patients in their homes and across geographic boundaries, opens doors to new care models and improved resource allocation. The relaxed restrictions on communication platforms also enable a more versatile approach to patient engagement. By capitalizing on these changes, healthcare leaders can successfully navigate challenges and transform their organizations for the better.
We continue to monitor the evolving telehealth landscape and provide guidance to help healthcare executives (and our clients) optimize their patient outcomes and third-party provider contracts.
Stay informed on telehealth policy changes with better healthcare intelligence from Uppercentile. If you have any questions or need further assistance, reach out to our team.
Find the HHS link for further reading here: