August 1, 2022
This week, the House voted overwhelmingly in support of the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act of 2022 (H.R. 4040). The legislation targets many of the key temporary Medicare telehealth flexibilities that are currently extended for 151 days past the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), per the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (CAA) enacted in March.
If passed in the Senate, this bill would extend the following Medicare telehealth flexibilities through December 31, 2024:
- Removing geographic requirements and expanding originating sites for telehealth services to enable beneficiaries in both rural and non-rural communities to receive telehealth services from their home or any other location
- Expanding the list of telehealth-eligible providers to include qualified occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language therapists and audiologists
- Delaying in-person visit requirements for the delivery of mental health services via telehealth, including those furnished by rural health clinics and federally qualified health clinics
- Including audio-only as a covered telehealth modality
- Allowing the use of telehealth to conduct a face-to-face encounter prior to recertification of eligibility for hospice care
The legislation will now advance to the Senate, where it is similarly expected to receive strong support, though timing of such consideration remains unknown given a crowded legislative calendar. While some stakeholders and members of Congress expressed disappointment that Congress will not advance a permanent extension of these PHE-enabled telehealth practices, this legislation is expected to allow Congress more time both to consider permanent telehealth reform and to reach agreement on bipartisan offsets to pay for the costs of permanently extending these telehealth practices.
On July 22, the NYS Council sent the following information to all members, to include a very useful document linked below (yellow highlight):
The Federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) has been extended to October 15, 2002.
The extension marks the continuation of several temporary authorities afforded under the PHE including continuous eligibility requirements, waivers of telehealth restrictions, and federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) increases, among other items. For more information on the Medicare- and Medicaid-specific flexibilities afforded under the COVID-19 PHE, see this analysis.
Remember: Many of the ‘temporary flexibilities’ OASAS and OMH providers are operating under are based on New York having received approval to implement them under a temporary waiver the state filed with CMS in 2020. Many of the flexibilities are being incorporated and made permanent via revised / updated / new regulations that have already been or will be promulgated by the state agencies.