On Tuesday, March 16, 2022, President Biden signed into law HR 2471, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (“CAA 2022”). This new law includes several provisions that extend Medicare’s telehealth waivers and flexibilities, implemented in the wake of COVID-19 to facilitate access to care, for an additional 151 days after the emergency ends. public health (“PHE”). This equates to a period of approximately five months.
The CAA 2022 expansion captures most of the basic PHE telehealth flexibilities allowed under Medicare’s pandemic response, including the following:
- Geographic restrictions and origin sites: During the extension, Medicare beneficiaries can continue to receive telehealth services from anywhere in the country, including their home. Medicare allows the provision of patient telehealth services at any site in the United States, not just ZIP codes or eligible locations (eg, medical offices/facilities).
- Eligible practitioners: Qualified occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech language pathologists and audiologists will continue to be able to provide and receive payment for telehealth services as eligible remote site practitioners during the extension period.
- Mental Health: In-person requirements for certain mental health services will continue to be waived during the 151-day extension period.
- Audio-only telehealth services: Medicare will continue to provide coverage and payment for most telehealth services delivered using audio-only technology. This includes professional consultations, office visits and psychiatric services in the office (identified as of July 1, 2000 by the HCPCS codes 99241-99275, 99201-99215, 90804-90809 and 90862) and any other services added to the list of telehealth by the CMS secretary. where CMS has not expressly required the use of real-time interactive audiovisual equipment during the PHE.
Additionally, the 2022 CAA is allocating $62,500,000 from the federal budget to be used for grants for telemedicine and distance learning services in rural areas. These funds can be used to finance the construction of facilities and systems providing telemedicine services and distance education services in qualified “rural areas”.
The passage of the 2022 CAA is an important step in the right direction for stakeholders hoping to see permanent legislative change surrounding Medicare telehealth reimbursement.