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Extensions to telehealth waivers create a little more certainty for practices and patients

Practices and patients that have benefited from Medicare’s telehealth flexibilities no longer have to worry about a hard stop to the popular waivers on the day the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) ends.
The Medicare telehealth waivers that have been in effect since March 2020 are now guaranteed to continue for five months past the end of the PHE thanks to a section titled Telehealth Flexibility Extensions in H.R. 2741, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (CAA 2022).
CAA 2022, which President Biden signed into law March 15, created several extensions to Medicare’s telehealth flexibilities “during the 151-day period beginning on the first day after the end of the emergency period,” including:
  • Audio-only services. Practices can continue to perform a variety of telehealth services through an audio-only connection. You can find a current list of approved telehealth services on CMS’ website.
  • Originating site. Patients can continue to receive telehealth services in their homes, or “any site in the United States at which the eligible telehealth individual is located at the time the service is furnished via a telecommunications system,” according to the CAA.
  • Eligible practitioners. Qualified occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech-language pathologists can continue to provide telehealth services when appropriate.
The telehealth provisions aren’t the permanent changes that many organizations, providers and patients want, but they do show Congress is aware of the demand for change.
You can expect more guidance from CMS, but it may be a while before that information is released. Remember: The provisions in CAA of 2022 won’t go into effect until the PHE expires and that date is still to be determined.
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