On March 15, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, otherwise known as the “Omnibus Bill.” Included in the many provisions introduced by the Omnibus Bill is an extension of Medicare coverage of professional consultations, office visits, and office psychiatry services conducted via telemedicine for 151 days following the termination of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).
As part of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, administrative and legislative changes waived the traditional location and technology requirements necessary to qualify for Medicare coverage for the duration of the PHE. In addition to extending these waivers, the Omnibus Bill expands the types of practitioners eligible to provide telehealth services to patients. Prior to the PHE, Medicare covered telehealth services only if offered by physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse-midwives, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, registered dieticians, or certified registered nurse anesthetics. The Omnibus Bill adds to the list of qualifying practitioners occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists. Other changes under the Bill include delaying in-person requirements for the provision of mental health services and extending coverage of telehealth services rendered by federally qualified health centers to provide telehealth services for the same 151-day post-PHE time period.
While these changes may be welcomed by many healthcare providers as supplying necessary resources for both telehealth patients and providers, it remains to be seen whether coverage flexibilities established during the PHE will become permanent moving forward. The Omnibus Bill requires the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to provide Congress with a report by June 15, 2023 on the expansion of telehealth services as a result of the PHE. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is similarly required to provide Congress with a report by June 15, 2023 on program integrity risks associated with Medicare telehealth services. Additionally, HHS must post quarterly data, beginning on July 1, 2022, on Medicare claims for telemedicine services. Healthcare providers should be cognizant of these developments and take steps to ensure compliance is maintained as these and other legislative and regulatory changes unfold.