The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to relax some requirements related to telehealth services, expanding the types of patients and care settings that are eligible for telehealth reimbursement.
Normally, CMS allows Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services only if the beneficiary is located in a rural area and the originating site meets certain eligibility requirements.
Now, CMS is waiving the “eligible originating site” requirement for telehealth services rendered on or after March 6, 2020, and allowing telehealth services provided in all care settings, including a patient’s home.
Further, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated that during the pandemic, it will not conduct audits to ensure there was a prior established relationship before the telehealth services, as is normally required.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) also issued a notification of enforcement discretion for telehealth during the pandemic, noting that during this time, some telehealth services may not be fully compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
OCR said it will exercise enforcement discretion by not imposing any penalties for noncompliance with HIPAA for the good faith provision of telehealth, regardless of whether the telehealth services were specifically related to the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
OCR also indicated that providers can use certain “non-public-facing remote technologies” for telehealth services, such as Skype, Apple FaceTime, or Facebook Messenger video chat. However, they must not use “public-facing” technology like Facebook Live or TikTok.
Complete guidance on telehealth services during the pandemic is available here. The Drug Enforcement Administration stated that physicians may use telehealth to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine without a prior in-person exam.