03/17/2022 – This article focuses on the telehealth provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022. For more information about the funding provision in the bill, please see this summary.
As the Academy has noted since the beginning of the COVID-19 public health emergency, many of the temporary flexibilities to Medicare's telehealth coverage polices would require an act of Congress to make permanent. The first such actions on that front have been taken under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, which was signed into law by President Biden on March 15, 2022.
Specifically, Congress has amended the Social Security Act to include new language that extends several telehealth flexibilities for 151 days (five months) after the end of a public health emergency declared by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The flexibilities that impact RDN Medicare providers include:
- Continue to allow the originating sites for telehealth services to include any site in the United States at which the Medicare beneficiary is located at the time the service is furnished, including their home;
- Continue to allow Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics to serve as telehealth service providers (i.e., serve as a distant site); and
- Continue to provide coverage and payment for telehealth services furnished via an audio-only telecommunications system.
The current public health emergency declaration is set to expire on April 16, 2022. If the Secretary of HHS does not renew the public health emergency for another 90 days, the above flexibilities will continue through September 14, 2022. If the public health emergency is renewed (and every time it is renewed), it would push back the end date of these flexibilities by another 90 days. In the absence of a public health emergency, MNT and DSMT remain approved telehealth services and RDNs remain eligible telehealth providers under Medicare Part B.
The new law also includes several reporting requirements:
- Requires the Medicare Payment and Advisory Commission to conduct a study on the expansion of telehealth services under the Medicare program as a result of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, including an analysis of utilization, expenditures, payment policies, access to care and quality of care. MEDPAC is required to submit a report to Congress no later than June 15, 2023, along with recommendations for legislative and administrative action. MEDPAC provides reports to Congress twice a year (March and June).
- Requires the Inspector General to submit to Congress no later than June 15, 2023 a report on program integrity risks associated with Medicare telehealth services, including recommendations to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.
- Requires the Secretary of HHS to post on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website beginning July 1, 2022 quarterly data on Medicare claims for telemedicine services, including data on utilization and beneficiary characteristics.