Telehealth policy changes after the COVID-19 public health emergency
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took a range of administrative steps to expedite the adoption and awareness of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these telehealth flexibilities have been made permanent while others are temporary.
Update on the telehealth flexibilities during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 extended many of the telehealth flexibilities authorized during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency through December 31, 2024. The Department of Health and Human Services announced an extension (renewal) of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) for an additional 90 days.
As the public health emergency ends, more resources and guidance will be made available to keep you and your staff up-to-date regarding the latest changes to telehealth policies.
Recent legislation authorized an extension of many of the policies outlined in the COVID-19 public health emergency through December 31, 2024.
Permanent Medicare changes
- Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) can serve as a distant site provider for behavioral/mental telehealth services.
- Medicare patients can receive telehealth services for behavioral/mental health care in their home.
- There are no geographic restrictions for originating site for behavioral/mental telehealth services.
- Behavioral/mental telehealth services can be delivered using audio-only communication platforms.
- Rural hospital emergency department are accepted as an originating site.
Temporary Medicare changes through December 31, 2024
- Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC)/Rural Health Clinic (RHC) can serve as a distant site provider for non-behavioral/mental telehealth services.
- Medicare patients can receive telehealth services authorized in the Calendar Year 2023 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule in their home.
- There are no geographic restrictions for originating site for non-behavioral/mental telehealth services.
- Some non-behavioral/mental telehealth services can be delivered using audio-only communication platforms.
- An in-person visit within six months of an initial behavioral/mental telehealth service, and annually thereafter, is not required.
- Telehealth services can be provided by a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, or audiologist.
Temporary changes through the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency
- Telehealth can be provided as an excepted benefit.
- Medicare-covered providers may use any non-public facing application to communicate with patients without risking any federal penalties — even if the application isn’t in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
Source: Guidance on How the HIPAA Rules Permit to Use Remote Communication Technologies for Audio-Only Telehealth; Families First Coronovirus Response Act and Coronavirus Response Act and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Implementation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights released guidance to help health care providers and health plans bound by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules (HIPAA Rules) understand how they can use remote communication technologies for audio-only telehealth post-COVID-19 public health emergency.
More information about this guidance is available on the Legal Considerations page and FAQs on Telehealth and HIPAA during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.