Tell VMS How Telehealth is Working For Your Practice
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting State of Emergency orders have driven the need for Vermont practitioners to provide telehealth services to meet patient's urgent and non-urgent needs. VMS has prepared a brief survey on how telehealth is working for your practice and what barriers VMS can help you overcome in order to provide broader access to quality care during and after Vermont’s State of Emergency has passed. For example, the results of this survey will help inform VMS advocacy for long-term reimbursement of telehealth services and assess if patients need assistance in getting video capability. Please click here for the survey and please submit it by May 15, 2020.
Please email Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or suggestions.
CMS Announces Expansion of Medicare Telehealth Services
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today issued another round of sweeping regulatory waivers and rule changes to deliver expanded care to Medicare beneficiaries and provide flexibility to the healthcare system as America reopens. These changes include making it easier for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to get tested for COVID-19 and continuing CMS’s efforts to further expand beneficiaries’ access to telehealth services. Some of the changes include:
- CMS previously announced that Medicare would pay for certain services conducted by audio-only telephone between beneficiaries and their doctors and other clinicians. Now, CMS is broadening that list to include many behavioral health and patient education services. CMS is also increasing payments for these telephone visits to match payments for similar office and outpatient visits. This would increase payments for these services from a range of about $14-$41 to about $46-$110. The payments are retroactive to March 1, 2020.
- Waiving the video requirement for certain telephone evaluation and management services and adding them to the list of Medicare telehealth services. As a result, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to use an audio-only telephone to get these services.
- Expanding 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.
For additional background information on the waivers and rule changes see the fact sheet and for more detail click here. VMS will continue to share details about these expansions as they become available.
________________________________________________________________________Legislature Considers Crisis Standards of Care
The House and Senate Health Care Committees held a joint hearing today on crisis standards of care. Kelly Dougherty, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Health, testified regarding the State’s Crisis Standard of Care Plan. She said the section in the Plan on ventilator use is in the process of being updated to add clarity around the factors that can be considered in allocating ventilator use, such as the patient’s prognosis and likelihood of treatment response and the ability of the facility to meet the needs of every patient. A facility would not be able to consider sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status/ability to pay for care, disability or degree of disability, or chronic disease diagnosis, in and of itself. Many of these decisions would need to be made by a team that does not have information about patient demographics that should not be considered (e.g. race), and there would be an appeals process to reconsider the decision made by the initial team. Cindy Bruzzese, Executive Director and Clinical Ethicist with the Vermont Ethics Network also provided an overview of a number of the criteria and guidelines that can guide clinical decision-making. The Vermont Ethics Network website has a number of resources on allocating scarce resources and the ethical concerns raised by COVID 19.
Vermont Health Care Associations Release Principles and Guidance for Resuming Patient Care During COVID-19
The Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, in collaboration with the Vermont Medical Society, HealthFirst and Bi-State Primary Care, have released guidance for gradually reopening patient care during COVID 19. This Guidance has been submitted to the Agency of Human Services and Department of Health to inform any modifications to the Executive Order suspending non-essential surgical and medical procedures and/or health advisories from the Health Department. In the meantime, practices can also use the guidance and resources laid out in this document to start informing planning.
HHS Will Reimburse For Uninsured Who Received COVID Testing and Care
As part of the FFCRA and CARES Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will reimburse health care professionals for testing uninsured individuals for COVID-19 and treating uninsured individuals with a COVID-19 diagnosis for dates of service on or after February 4, 2020. HHS has contracted with UnitedHealth Group to administer the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program. Providers can request claims reimbursement through the program electronically and will be reimbursed generally at Medicare rates, subject to available funding and agreeing to program terms and conditions, including agreeing not to balance bill the patient. Claims can be submitted beginning May 6, 2020. More information can be found online at http://coviduninsuredclaim.linkhealth.com/.
AMA Urges CMS to Reinstate Advanced Payment Program
AMA is urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to reinstate its Accelerated and Advance Payment (AAP) Program and to expand it to cover similar Medicaid retainer payments for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS suspended applications for the AAP on April 26, advising practitioners to apply for the second round of provider relief funds instead. The AMA requests that CMS:
- Extend the repayment period for physicians to at least two years.
- Reduce the recoupment amount to a maximum of 25% of claims to ensure that the recoupment process does not result in a future sudden stoppage of Medicare revenue to practices.
- Waive the interest rate that applies to advance payment balances after the initial repayment period. To learn more click here.