The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a waiver of certain Medicare telehealth provisions granted by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (Coronavirus Act), which was signed into law on March 6, 2020. The waiver was announced on March 17.1,2

The waiver removes the Medicare limitations on telehealth only being authorized in rural areas. It removes the restrictions on telehealth originating sites, allowing for patient’s homes to be considered an originating site and will apply to a broad category of “non-face-to-face services furnished through various modalities, including telehealth visits, virtual check-in services, e-visits, monthly remote care management, and monthly remote patient monitoring,” according to US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG).2

HHS has also announced that it will not enforce the requirement of an existing relationship between a patient and a provider to furnish telehealth services. Additionally, the HHS will waive penalties for HIPAA violations against health providers who serve patients in good faith through everyday communication technologies such as FaceTime. Health care providers also have the authority to reduce or waive cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by Medicare.

The waiver is specific to the Medicare program and does not waive any existing state telehealth requirements, exempt nurse practitioners from state collaborative/supervision requirements in the states that mandate them, or waive the requirements of other insurers including Medicaid. The waiver applies broadly throughout the Medicare program and is not specific for patients being treated for the coronavirus.


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The waiver will be retroactive to services provided beginning on March 6, 2020, and will be effective until the end of the public health emergency.

For more information on cost-sharing obligations related to telehealth and OIG,  click here.

Click here for additional updates on future waivers, guidance, and regulatory actions related to the 2019 novel coronavirus from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

References

1. Medicare Telehealth Waivers Update. American Association of Nurse Practitioners website. https://www.aanp.org/news-feed/medicare-telehealth-waivers-update. Published March 18, 2020. Accessed March 31, 2020.

2. US Health and Human Services. OIG Policy Statement Regarding Physicians and Other Practitioners That Reduce or Waive Amounts Owed by Federal Health Care Program Beneficiaries for Telehealth Services During the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak. March 17, 2020. Accessed March 31, 2020.