INSIGHT: Key Medicare Telehealth, HIPAA Changes During Coronavirus Pandemic

Bloomberg Health Law & Business News

Anjali N.C. Downs, Anjana D. Patel, Patricia M. Wagner, and Amy Lerman, attorneys in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, co-authored an article in Bloomberg Health Law & Business News, titled “INSIGHT: Key Medicare Telehealth, HIPAA Changes During Coronavirus Pandemic.”

Following is an excerpt:

The Trump administration recently made telehealth services available to Medicare patients in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

On March 6, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. Embedded in this act is the Telehealth Services During Certain Emergency Periods Act, which loosened regulatory restrictions on telehealth to enable patients to obtain necessary medical services without having to leave their homes.

On March 17, the administration announced the implementation of this waiver , which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has effectuated.

Telehealth services historically have only been available to Medicare beneficiaries in certain circumstances and only if the patient had an existing, established relationship with the health care provider. The Act lessens some of Medicare’s restrictions on coverage of telehealth services in connection with the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration.

The CMS makes clear in a FAQ that the waiver allows any Medicare patient, regardless of location, to receive telehealth services in their home. In addition, while the waiver is in effect, the CMS will not enforce the established relationship restriction.

The CMS stated it will not conduct audits to ensure that a prior relationship existed for claims submitted during the emergency, saying “it is imperative during this public health emergency that patients avoid travel, when possible, to physicians’ offices, clinics, hospitals, or other health care facilities where they could risk their own or others exposure to further illness.”