CMS is expanding its list of audio-only telephone services covered by Medicare as well as making several other updates to telehealth coverage, Becker’s Spine Review reports.

The following blanket waivers are in effect, with a retroactive effective date of March 1, 2020, through the emergency declaration, per CMS:

• Eligible Practitioners. Pursuant to authority granted under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that broadens the waiver authority under section 1135 of the Social Security Act, the Secretary has authorized additional telehealth waivers. CMS is waiving the requirements of section 1834(m)(4)(E) of the Act and 42 CFR § 410.78 (b)(2) which specify the types of practitioners that may bill for their services when furnished as Medicare telehealth services from the distant site. The waiver of these requirements expands the types of health care professionals that can furnish distant site telehealth services to include all those that are eligible to bill Medicare for their professional services. This allows health care professionals who were previously ineligible to furnish and bill for Medicare telehealth services, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and others, to receive payment for Medicare telehealth services.

• Audio-Only Telehealth for Certain Services. Pursuant to authority granted under the CARES Act, CMS is waiving the requirements of section 1834(m)(1) of the ACT and 42 CFR § 410.78(a)(3) for use of interactive telecommunications systems to furnish telehealth services, to the extent they require use of video technology, for certain services. This waiver allows the use of audio-only equipment to furnish services described by the codes for audio-only telephone evaluation and management services, and behavioral health counseling and educational services (see designated codes Unless provided otherwise, other services included on the Medicare telehealth services list must be furnished using, at a minimum, audio and video equipment permitting two-way, real-time interactive communication between the patient and distant site physician or practitioner.

CMS is also allowing PTs and OTs to delegate maintenance work to PTAs and OTAs, per a news release:

  • CMS is allowing physical and occupational therapists to delegate maintenance therapy services to physical and occupational therapy assistants in outpatient settings. This frees up physical and occupational therapists to perform other important services and improve beneficiary access.