The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was released yesterday. Amid the massive bill’s 5,000-plus pages are several portions related to telehealth.
The two main changes involve Medicare reimbursement.
First, the bill would add rural emergency hospitals to the list of eligible “originating sites” for telehealth services reimbursable by Medicare.
Second, the bill would exempt certain types of telehealth treatment from Medicare’s rural geographic requirement. Currently, a similar exemption exists for substance abuse-related diagnoses. The bill would extend that type of exemption to diagnosis, evaluation or treatment of mental health disorders once the COVID-19 emergency ends and such services could be received in the patient’s home. The caveat, however, is that the healthcare provider would need to have provided an item or service in-person to the patient within six months before the first telehealth service.
The bill in current form also provides additional funds to the FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program