Dive Brief:

  • President Donald Trump late Monday signed an executive order directing the administration to permanently extend Medicare’s broader telehealth coverage after the public health emergency, and CMS followed by proposing a rule that does so — albeit on a piecemeal, service-by-service basis.
  • The proposed changes, in its 2021 physician fee schedule released Monday night, would allow Medicare providers to conduct evaluation and management (E/M) home visits for established patients virtually, allow an emergency room E/M virtual visit for minor to moderately severe health issues and expand some telehealth services similar to telehealth services already covered by Medicare, like for group psychotherapy or care for patients with cognitive impairment. Nine new telehealth codes will be permanent, and 13 will be covered through the calendar year in which the public health emergency ends, to give physicians a chance to deliver services virtually before CMS decides whether or not to permanently allow them.
  • Notable exclusions are payment for audio-only telehealth visits conducted over the telephone, though CMS noted consumer demand could remain as Medicare beneficiaries, of which an estimated 40% don’t have access to a computer with internet, look to receive care while avoiding potential infection. CMS asked for public input on any services it temporarily included for the scope of the emergency that it’s not proposing to cover permanently. Comments are due Oct. 5.

Dive Insight: