CMS finalizes telehealth expansion

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

WASHINGTON – CMS permanently expanded certain telehealth services, leveraging an “explosion of innovation” during the COVID-19 pandemic, in a final rule released Dec. 1. 

In in its annual Physician Fee Schedule final rule, the agency adds more than 60 services to the Medicare telehealth list that will continue to be covered beyond the end of the public health emergency. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, actions by the Trump Administration have unleashed an explosion in telehealth innovation, and we’re now moving to make many of these changes permanent,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Medicare beneficiaries will now be able to receive dozens of new services via telehealth, and we’ll keep exploring ways to deliver Americans access to health care in the setting that they and their doctor decide makes sense for them.” 

Before the pandemic, only 15,000 fee-for-service beneficiaries each week received a Medicare telemedicine service. But between mid-March and mid-October of this year, more than 24.5 million out of 63 million beneficiaries and enrollees have received a Medicare telemedicine service. 

CMS has covered 144 telehealth services, such as emergency department visits, initial inpatient and nursing facility visits, and discharge day management services, through the end of the PHE.