Permanent telehealth changes coming to home health

CMS wants to make permanent changes to telehealth flexibilities for home health providers, the agency said Thursday.
The Trump administration loosened telehealth restrictions
for home health providers during the COVID-19 pandemic but now wants them to go beyond the public health emergency. According to the proposed rule, CMS is looking to bump pay for home health providers by 2.6% overall, or about $540 million.
For now “home health agencies can continue to utilize telecommunications technologies in providing care to beneficiaries under the Medicare home health benefit beyond the COVID-19 (public health emergency), as long as the telecommunications technology is related to the skilled services being furnished, is outlined on the plan of care, and is tied to a specific goal indicating how such use would facilitate treatment outcomes,” CMS said in a fact sheet.
Telehealth costs would become permanently allowable administrative costs for home health agencies under the proposed rule, according to CMS.
The coronavirus outbreak forced providers, insurers, consumers, vendors and policymakers to embrace telehealth after years of fierce resistance and glacial progress. Now stakeholders want to make telemedicine a permanent feature of the healthcare delivery system instead of undoing the hard-earned progress. The industry should expect federal and state policymakers to continue to break down barriers to telehealth. But it’ll be a tough road ahead, given all the changes that need to happen and in-fighting that’s bound to occur among providers, payers and lawmakers.
The agency is proposing a 5% cap on wage index cuts for 2021 and finalizing changes to home infusion therapy that must go into effect by January 1 under the 21st Century Cures Act. CMS based its proposed changes to 2021 payment rates for home infusion therapy services on the 2021 physician fee schedule.
Congress created a new home infusion therapy benefit under the Cures Act to allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive drugs or biologicals at home intravenously or subcutaneously.

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