Telehealth Restrictions Temporarily Lifted
The Coronavirus Preparedness Act and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074) provides Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) the authority to waive specific Medicare telehealth restrictions temporarily in order to broaden access to Medicare telehealth services.
As a result, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will:
- Waive geographic restrictions, allowing patients located in any geographic area—both non-rural and non-health professional shortage areas—to receive telehealth services
- Waive originating site restrictions, meaning patients can receive telehealth services in the comfort of their own homes
- Allow the use of telephones that have audio and video capabilities to administer telehealth services
- Allow reimbursement for any telehealth covered code, even if unrelated to COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, or treatment
- Halt the enforcement of the established relationship requirement, meaning that HHS will not conduct audits to ensure a prior physician/patient relationship existed before the crisis
The Office of the Inspector General also announced that physicians and other healthcare practitioners now have flexibility in reducing or waiving cost-sharing obligations for telehealth visits that are paid by federal healthcare programs. Prior to this announcement, Medicare only covered costs for telehealth on a limited basis.
Additionally, the Office for Civil Rights announced that for the duration of the crisis it will exercise enforcement discretion and waive penalties for HIPAA violations against providers that serve patients in “good faith” through commonly-used communication apps such as Skype or FaceTime.
What it Means
The regulatory flexibilities allowed under the emergency declaration are part of a larger effort by CMS and the Trump administration. The goal is to ensure that all Americans, healthy and sick alike, are aware that easy-to-use, accessible services like telemedicine can help keep them healthy while mitigating the community spread of COVID-19.
SOC Stands Prepared
As the largest acute care telemedicine company in the U.S., and with our team of geographically-dispersed specialists and a flexible, remote workforce, SOC is prepared to support providers and patients as they work through this epidemic.
As providers continue to prepare for significant influxes of patients and the surges in demand for telehealth services and programs, SOC’s leadership and implementation teams are engaged in strategic preparedness conversations to increase availability and secure additional hours for patient surges.
Additionally, SOC has activated RACER (Remote Acute Care Emergency Response), an emergency response telemedicine implementation protocol that allows health systems to implement or expand their telemedicine programs within 72 hours.
If you would like to learn more about rapid implementation of telemedicine, please contact us immediately.