Health

Legislators offer permanent Medicare coverage of tele-health audio only

Medicare will permanently cover audio telehealth visits only in a new bill introduced Monday by two members of Congress.

The bill, presented by Rep.Jasson Smith (R-Mo.) And Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.), will also eliminate a requirement that patients receive telecare services in a health facility so that it is covered by Medicare.

CMS temporarily resigned dozens of limitations on telehealth coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the old restrictions will resume after the public health emergency unless Congress acts.

Providers and members of Congress have argued that waivers should be made permanent, especially to benefit patients living in rural areas where patients do not have access to the Internet for video calls.

“This method of healthcare delivery should serve as a bridge to provide better care and remain a permanent option for patients who will not gain access to broadband and technology overnight,” Smith said.

The project is supported by the Medical Association of Group Management (MGMA), Health Leadership Council, and others.

Prior to COVID-19, Medicare coverage of telehealth services was quite limited. CMS waives dozens of restrictions, making it easier for patients to use telecare during the pandemic when avoiding healthcare facilities. Congress is now working to decide that waivers must be made permanent, but some lawmakers have concerns on potential fraud, waste and costs.

MedPAC has admonished Congress to temporarily allow a targeted telesana expansion for a few more years to collect more data on costs and results.


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