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COVID-19 Telehealth: Where Things Stand on May 5, 2020

The Administration continues to loosen Medicare restrictions on telehealth.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency (PHE) on January 27, 2020. Subsequently, Congress passed and the president signed three bills that provide varying degrees of regulatory and financial relief for healthcare providers during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) PHE. These bills have triggered a cascade of actions from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) designed to increase access to and use of telehealth services, and provide flexibilities for providers to complete certain administrative requirements virtually. Greater reliance on virtual care and administration may limit patient travel and exposure to COVID-19 and reduce the spread of the virus, in adherence to other federal guidelines. At the same time, telehealth gives providers an opportunity to provide some healthcare services to their patients without a face-to-face encounter, preserving revenue during the crisis.

This +Insight has been updated to reflect additional changes from the CMS Interim Final Rule of April 30, 2020. These changes are highlighted in the chart.

Key Takeaways

  • Congress and the Administration have substantially loosened Medicare restrictions on, and expanded the use of, telehealth services, but only for the duration of the COVID-19 PHE.

  • CMS has allowed additional flexibility for the use of audio-only communications to provide telehealth services.

  • CMS has expanded the types of clinical practitioners that can furnish Medicare telehealth services.

  • CMS will add new telehealth services on a sub-regulatory basis during the PHE.

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© 2020 McDermott Will & EmeryNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 126

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About this Author

Rachel Stauffer, McDermott Law Firm, Washington DC, Health Policy Consultant

Rachel is a highly experienced government relations and legislative affairs strategist and advocate who is informed by a solid foundation of health policy knowledge.

Prior to joining McDermottPlus, Rachel served as the director of policy and government relations for a health IT contractor, where she developed the company’s first strategic plan for government relations. She grew the company’s profile on Capitol Hill by establishing new relationships with key leaders in the federal, state and military health program space. As a result, the company...

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Mara McDermott, McDermott Law Firm, Washington DC, HealthCare Law Executive

Mara is an accomplished health care executive with a deep understanding of federal health care law and policy, including delivery system reform, physician payment and Medicare payment models.

Most recently Mara served as the senior vice president of federal affairs at America’s Physician Groups (formerly the California Association of Physician Groups, CAPG), a professional association representing medical groups and independent practice associations practicing in capitated, coordinated care models. As head of the Washington, DC, office, Mara worked on behalf of the association’s member organizations to advance policies that promoted coordinated care, including working with members of Congress and their staffs, the administration, health policy stakeholders and coalitions to advance alternative payment models. Mara’s work covered a wide variety of issue areas, including implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and Medicare Advantage policy, as well as issues related to the Medicare physician fee schedule and Medicare accountable care organizations.

Previously, Mara was counsel in the health industry practice at a law firm in Washington, DC. In that role, she focused on a variety of issues affecting health industry clients, with a particular emphasis on health policy and regulatory issues facing physician organizations, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and academic medical institutions.

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