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. Many of the telehealth flexibilities are temporary and will lapse at the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
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.
The current COVID-19 public health emergency declaration is effective through October 13, 2022. Once the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency occurs, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (PDF), has ensured a 151-day extension period before many of the policies outlined in the COVID-19 public health emergency are set to expire, to allow for a transition period.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has developed a roadmap (PDF) for the eventual end of the Medicare public health emergency waivers and flexibilities.
Medicare patients can now receive telehealth services, including audio-only services, for mental/behavioral health care in their homes in any part of the country if certain conditions are met.
The CY 2022 Telehealth Update Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PDF) has already codified the continued coverage of video-based mental health visits for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) on a permanent basis. For more information, refer to the Final CY 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Fact Sheet (PDF) from the National Telehealth Policy Resource Center.
What is being phased out
At the end of the 151-day waiting period identified by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (PDF) the following policies are set to end:
Increased flexibility regarding where the patient receives Medicare telehealth services, as well as where the services originate will revert back to match the restrictions that were in place prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Medicare reimbursement for mental health telehealth services will again require an in-person visit within 6 months of initial assessment and every 12 months following.
Medicare reimbursement for telehealth visits furnished by physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and audiologists will no longer be allowed.
Medicare will no longer cover audio-only visits for physical health encounters.
FQHCs and RHCs will no longer be able to be reimbursed as distant site telehealth providers for non-mental health services.
Upon the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, some policies will cease immediately.
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.
The 2023 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) will be available for public comment and review later this year. In order to ensure your organization is as prepared as possible for forthcoming changes, review the proposed changes to the 2023 PFS when released for public comment.