The Role of Telehealth in the Fight Against COVID-19
- March 17, 2020
The recent enactment of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (“Act”) and declaration of a national emergency by President Trump provides the tools to allow greater use of telehealth to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an 1135 Waiver for “requirements that physicians or other health care professionals hold licenses in the state in which they provide services if they have an equivalent license from another state.” The Trump administration also announced today, March 17, 2020, Medicare telehealth coverage is being expanded “to enable beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility.”
The Act gave the Secretary the power to waive geographic and site restrictions to telehealth in Medicare. As summarized by the Center for Connected Health Policy, the Act “did NOT expand the eligible provider list and included an additional qualifier that an eligible provider had to have a pre-existing relationship OR be in the same practice of a physician or practitioner who did have a pre-existing relationship with the patient.”
On March 11, 2020, the Secretary received a letter from U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, Committee on Ways and Means, asking for waiver authority granted under the Act to be implemented. The request also specifically states that the “waiver make clear that use of telehealth during the outbreak is not solely restricted to coronavirus patients.” Finally, Representative Thompson extends an offer for additional clarification from Congress should that be deemed helpful from the Secretary.
The healthcare industry has increasingly been converting the potential of telehealth into direct care for years. The outbreak of coronavirus to pandemic proportions and the need for isolation presents an unprecedented opportunity for telehealth applications. Expanding the available services for Medicare beneficiaries will help protect the more vulnerable elderly population and allow them to receive routine medical care while remaining in the safety of their homes.
 “H.R.6074 – Coronavirus Preparedness and Response ….” 05 Mar. 2020, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6074. Accessed March 17, 2020
 “Additional Emergency and Disaster-Related Policies and ….” https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/Downloads/MedicareFFS-EmergencyQsAs1135Waiver.pdf. Accessed March 17, 2020.
 “President Trump Expands Telehealth Benefits ….” https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/president-trump-expands-telehealth-benefits-medicare-beneficiaries-during-covid-19-outbreak. Accessed March 17, 2020.
 “TELEHEALTH COVERAGE POLICIES IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 TO ….” 16 Mar. 2020, https://mtelehealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/CORONAVIRUS-TELEHEALTH-POLICY-FACT-SHEET-2020-03-16.pdf. Accessed March 17, 2020.
RICHARD ROMERO, CVA, ABV, CHFP, PAHM
Senior Vice PresidentContact