ATA responds to CMS final rule making some telehealth coverage permanent
The American Telemedicine Association on Wednesday issued a response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services final rule regarding a permanent expansion to some Medicare telehealth services.
Although the rule represented an important step forward for telehealth, the ATA argued that some progress is still necessary concerning remote monitoring services.
"While we appreciate the progress made in this final physician fee schedule, we are disappointed that CMS did not heed concerns expressed by the medical community – clearly outlined in the ATA’s comments on the draft rule – about certain provisions related to how remote patient monitoring services are to be covered by the PFS," said ATA CEO Ann Mond Johnson in a statement.
"Moving forward, we urge CMS to reconsider its approach to some aspect of remote patient monitoring coverage based on the realities of clinical practice," added Johnson.
WHY IT MATTERS
The CMS final rule, released earlier this week, allowed nine telehealth benefits to be permanently covered by Medicare within the confines of rural regions – including group psychotherapy, some home visits and cognitive assessment.
Nearly 60 other services will be temporarily extended until the end of the calendar year in which the public health emergency expires.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma said federal legislation is needed to make virtual care permanent after the pandemic in non-rural areas or other regions where it is already allowed.
The ATA echoed this call, drawing particular attention to the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2020 and the Telehealth Modernization Act as vital steps for safeguarding access to virtual care.
"Passing these bills would go a long way toward ensuring all Medicare beneficiaries have continued access to telehealth services after the COVID-19 public health emergency," said Johnson.
THE LARGER TREND
The CMS rule comes on the heels of final rules from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released last week, that could smooth the way toward telehealth adoption in the longer term.
Meanwhile, some states have begun to enact policies that would ease access to virtual care in the longer term. In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered payment parity for telehealth under state-regulated health plans until the end of 2020, and Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is pushing for telehealth payment parity through 2021.
ON THE RECORD
“CMS got a lot right in this final rule, including making a range of telehealth services permanently available to Medicare beneficiaries. Our fingers are crossed that many of the temporary telehealth services added to the Medicare list during the public health emergency will also be made permanent,” said Johnson.
"This final rule is yet another clear indication that telehealth has become a permanent part of our healthcare system and we applaud the administration for its leadership to ensure our citizens have had increased access to vital telehealth services in response to COVID-19," she continued.