Flush times continue in Washington for telehealth advocates, marked most recently by victories in the House and at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week.
CMS proposed to boost payment rates to providers for the virtual care they give to Medicare patients in their homes. And a House subcommittee approved a bill that would provide permanent tax breaks for telehealth plans.
The nitty-gritty: In its proposed physician fee schedule for next year, CMS says doctors need additional compensation because they’re now offering a significant amount of telehealth while still maintaining their physical offices.
The agency said doctors’ expenses are consistent with a higher “non-facility” payment rate, which varies by service type.
The proposal, likely to be finalized following a public comment period, would also:
— Allow federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics to bill separately for remote patient monitoring, saying it “reflect[s] the additional resources necessary” for the services.
— Permit doctors to fulfill Medicare requirements that they supervise the provision of certain medical services virtually through 2024. Before the pandemic, doctors had to supervise in person. Previous waivers had allowed virtual supervision through 2023.
— Simplify the process for categorizing which telehealth services doctors can bill for.
— Maintain pandemic rules that permitted certified opioid treatment programs to check in with patients via audio-only telehealth through 2024.
On the Hill: The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee advanced legislation that would permanently allow employers to offer telehealth as a tax-free benefit separate from their group health insurance plans.
The legislation would extend a pandemic rule aimed at encouraging employers to offer some health benefits to part-time seasonal workers whom they aren’t required to offer full coverage under Affordable Care Act rules.
Even so: The bill won the support of one Democrat, Minnesota Rep. Angie Craig, but it faces a steep climb to enactment because other Democrats don’t think it’s a good idea to allow employers to offer health care plans that don’t provide the comprehensive coverage mandated by Obamacare.