AACU News & Notes

CMS Payments Increased for Audio-Only Telehealth Services

posted: May 5, 2020

The advocacy efforts of organized medicine, including AACU, paid off on Friday when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that payments for audio-only telephone visits between Medicare beneficiaries and their physicians will be increased to match payments for office and outpatient visits.

The rule change, part of a larger package of CMS waivers designed to expand access to telehealth, will increase payment for services rendered over audio-only connections from a range of $14-$41 to about $46-$110. Notably, the increased payments are retroactive to March 1 and remain in effect for the duration of the public health emergency.

Additional highlights of the CMS’ Interim Rule include the following:

  • Waives the video requirement for certain evaluation and management (E/M) services, enabling providers to bill Medicare for audio-only services
  • Allows hospitals to bill for outpatient services furnished remotely by hospital-based practitioners, including telehealth to patients at home
  • Speeds up the process by which CMS adds new services to the list of telehealth services reimbursable under Medicare
  • Authorizes federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics to submit Medicare reimbursement claims for telehealth services provided

The AACU, which has endorsed the expansion of telehealth, applauds these reforms as they will enable elderly patients and those in rural areas who may not have access to audio-visual technology to receive health care services during this time.

Private Payer and State Actions on Telehealth

Health Insurance Providers Respond to Coronavirus (America’s Health Insurance Plans)
List of actions taken by private health insurance providers, including revised telehealth policies, in response to coronavirus

State Orders and Directives on Telemedicine (American Medical Association)
Chart detailing state policies on telehealth, including licensure waivers, doctor-patient relationship standards, and coverage and reimbursement mandates

Covid-19 Telehealth Coverage Policies (Center for Connected Health Policy)
Charts summarizing coverage provided by various public and private payers during the Covid-19 crisis, including CMS’ fee-for-service telehealth coverage

State Orders on Telemedicine (Center for Connected Health Policy)
Chart listing the actions taken by each state to remove policy barriers to telehealth utilization in response to the pandemic

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