How CMS Changes, Trump’s Executive Order Affect Telehealth Coverage

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Alongside President Trump's call for more rural telehealth coverage, CMS' proposed 2021 Physician Fee Schedule could keep the momentum going for connected health. But is it enough?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has come out with its long-anticipated plans to expand telehealth coverage beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

An advance copy of the proposed 2021 Physician Fee Schedule contains several changes to current Medicare coverage, including highlighting new opportunities for remote patient monitoring and adding nine new billing codes for connected health services. Supporters say the changes offer providers a strong transition from the emergency measures now in effect to deal with COVID-19, while some have said the changes don’t go far enough to keep the momentum going.

“Compared to last year, where CMS made only minor additions to telehealth services, the changes proposed for 2021 are bold and designed to more deliberately expand the use of telehealth technologies among Medicare beneficiaries,” Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner with Foley & Lardner and chair of its Telemedicine & Digital Health Team, said in a blog co-authored by Thomas Ferrante, senior counsel, and Emily Wein, an attorney with the firm.

The announcement came on the same day that President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order on Improving Rural and Telehealth Access, though there is some question as to whether the two are related – and what the Executive Order can accomplish other than to sound the drumbeat for telehealth.

“The Executive Order signed by President Trump to expand telehealth services for Medicare populations and improve access to care in rural areas signals, loud and clear, the Administration’s continued support for telehealth and virtual care,” American Telemedicine Association CEO Ann Mond Johnson said. “We applaud the Administration, as well as telehealth champions in Congress for taking the necessary steps to ensure individuals receive the care they need during this national health emergency and indicating support for extending telehealth post-pandemic.”

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