CMS Released COVID-19 Telehealth Waiver Information

Members | March 17, 2020 | by Andrea Price-Carter

In response to the proclamation of a national emergency and guidance in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act the Department of Health and Human Services is temporarily broadening access to Medicare telehealth services via a section 1135 waiver for telehealth services provided to Medicare beneficiaries throughout the coronavirus public health emergency.

On March 17, the Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) released guidance for the telehealth waiver, in the form of a Fact Sheet and a Q&A document.  Under this new waiver, Medicare can pay for office, hospital, and other visits furnished via telehealth across the country and include a patient’s places of residence starting March 6, 2020.

We have been receiving questions from a variety of members about the potential impacts of this expanded access to telehealth and not all are answered in today’s release. We are following up with CMS on specific questions and members can direct their questions to Aprice-carter@LeadingAge.org.  The highlights of the changes are:

  • The limitations pertaining to rural areas and site specifics are removed. This means that among other locations, a patient’s home can be allowed as the originating site.
  • The waiver does not change the services that are covered. The list of services is available here: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-GeneralInformation/Telehealth/Telehealth-Codes. 
  • The waiver does not expand the list of providers. The list of providers includes:
    • Physicians
    • Nurse practitioners
    • Physician assistants
    • Nurse-midwives
    • Clinical nurse specialists
    • Certified registered nurse anesthetists
    • Clinical psychologists
    • Clinical social workers
    • Registered dietitians or nutrition professional

A call with CMS leadership will discuss the 1135 waivers and the agency’s telehealth guidance. It is scheduled for March 18th from 4:30 – 5:00 PM EST. The number is 888-455-1397 Access Code: 5854574. There will be audience Q&A.