Our practices have encountered many changes during the past few months, including more prevalent use of telemedicine. Using telehealth has allowed us to remain in contact with patients who were concerned about coming into our offices to receive their nonemergent care.
Many of the waivers put in place to expand the use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic will end when the public health emergency (PHE) expires on July 24. While it seems likely that the Secretary of Health and Human Services will extend the PHE, the uncertainty related to long-term telemedicine flexibilities and payment make it difficult for allergy practices to plan ahead and to appropriately schedule patient visits. In addition, the potential abrupt ending of the relaxed rules does not take into account the ebb and flow of COVID-19 throughout the country or patients’ varied comfort levels in returning to our offices. The Advocacy Council believes many of these temporary flexibilities should be made permanent via regulatory or legislative action as soon as possible.
The Advocacy Council has identified the following policies that it will support through regulations/legislation to make them permanent covered benefits under Medicare:
- Payment parity between in-person visits and telehealth including audio-only visits.
- Ability to conduct a telehealth visit via non-HIPAA compliant technology (i.e., Smart Phone, Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, etc.).
- Ability to conduct a telehealth visit via an audio-only platform (i.e., traditional phone).
- Eliminating the originating site limitation placed on patients so they can receive services in their homes.
- Ability for any Medicare patient, regardless of whether they are in a rural or urban area, to engage in a telehealth visit.
- Expansion of allowed telehealth services.
- Allow new or established patients to participate in telehealth.
- Allow physicians to provide telehealth visits across state lines without needing to be licensed in the state in which the patient is located, as long as the physician is licensed in the state in which he/she is located.
- Remove all patient copayments.
- Allow flexibilities in direct supervision by physicians at teaching hospitals.
In the meantime, we suggest you continue to schedule telehealth visits as you see fit. We are monitoring the myriad of updates on telehealth information and will keep you apprised moving forward. Medical Group Management Association developed a list of third-party payers and the telehealth services they cover.
The Advocacy Council of ACAAI is reaching out to CMS and third-party payers requesting they continue to cover and reimburse for telehealth on a permanent basis. The Advocacy Council – we have you covered!