In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring the health and safety of Americans, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded access to Medicare telehealth services. Beneficiaries will now be able to receive a wide range of health care services from various providers without the need to travel to a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital.
Effective as of March 6, 2020, under this expansion, Medicare can now pay for virtual services via “telehealth,” including virtual check-ins and e-visits through audio-visual services. This will enable virtual visits in patients’ places of residence. The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) is also providing flexibility for healthcare providers to reduce or waive cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by federal healthcare programs. Furthermore, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will also exercise enforcement discretion and waive certain penalties for HIPAA violations against healthcare providers who serve patients through common, non-public audio or visual communications technologies, such as FaceTime or Skype. Communications technologies that are public-facing–such as Facebook Live, Twitch, or Tiktok–should not be used by health care providers to render services.
CMS has recently released a document containing numerous electronic links to reliable sources of information regarding telehealth and telemedicine. The General Provider Telehealth and Telemedicine Tool Kit (Toolkit) may be accessed here.
The Toolkit provides helpful links regarding the following subjects:
- CMS Telemedicine and General Policy Guidance
- Telehealth Implementation Guide
- State Statute Guidance
- Basics on Setting up Telehealth
- Telehealth Technical Assistance
- Selecting a Vendor
- Patients and Community Resources
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