AHA urges HHS to make telemedicine rollbacks permanent

• According to a letter sent to the agency Tuesday, the American Hospital Association wants HHS to offer the telemedicine flexibility it allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• In particular, the AHA would like hospitals to have the permanent ability to bill and reimburse certain virtual Medicare services. He wants CMS to add those that were added during the pandemic to Medicare’s list of telemedicine services and keep the regulatory process insufficient to add additional services to the list. The AHA also wants the agency to allow virtual records, electronic visits, and remote patient monitoring for new and established patients beyond the duration of the pandemic.

• According to the letter, pure telemedicine services, which the AHA describes as an essential service for many rural patients without high-speed Internet access, should also be permanently covered by CMS.

The use of telemedicine services has exploded since the Trump administration broke through regulatory barriers to early entry into the pandemic.

During the week ending March 7, only 11,000 older Americans with Medicare disabilities were using telemedicine. By the end of the week of April 25, Medicare beneficiaries had skyrocketed.

However, the providers that have invested heavily in these services and the companies that offer them rely on these regulations to create or destroy them for future use.

The AHA has expressed satisfaction with President Donald Trump’s August 3 decree to improve access to telemedicine in rural communities through a new payment model for rural hospitals and responsible health organizations that uses prepayments and specifications.

According to the hospital lobby, the draft CMS 2021 Medical Expense Schedule, which was also released earlier this month, offers additional flexibility in telemedicine. However, this is not enough to guarantee continued access to virtual healthcare.

The CMS proposal specifically excluded paying for pure telemedicine visits, which the AHA strongly recommends.

The AHA also recommends obtaining the recipient’s annual consent for virtual processing at the same time, not necessarily before service provision. Hospitals should still be able to receive diagnoses that affect risk adjustment through telemedicine visits, according to the AHA.

The PFS 2021 proposal provides for the permanent addition of nine new telemedicine codes, 13 of which will be addressed in the calendar year the public health emergency ends, to allow physicians to provide services virtually before CMS decides to make them permanent.

Other changes proposed by CMS include the ability to allow Medicare providers to virtually assess and manage home visits for incumbent patients, to allow for a virtual E / M visit to the emergency room for medical issues. Mild to moderate health and expansion of telemedicine. Services similar to those already covered by Medicare, such as group psychotherapy or treating patients with dementia.

The government praised telemedicine and vowed Wednesday to “use technology to promote American health” to “reassure patients, providers, and payers that telemedicine stays here and will be safe in the long run.”

The compromise calls on commercial insurers to commit to expanding flexible and affordable telemedicine providers and options to accelerate the adoption of telemedicine services, although it is not yet clear how far CMS will go to enable such long-term extensions.