Telehealth Gets A Financial Boost In the COVID-19 Pandemic

F.J. Thomas

Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) – In a recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (HHS ASPR), healthcare systems will have an additional $100 Million in the fight against COVID-19. The money comes funding of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was signed last month.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), California received the most funding at $13.8 Million. New York received $5.2 Million, and Florida received $4.5 Million of the total awarded.

Part of the funding can be used for telemedicine. Previously, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services limited telehealth services to rural areas. However, in response to COVID-19, those restrictions were lifted earlier this month and the benefit was expanded to cover all beneficiaries under the Telehealth Services During Certain Emergency Periods Act of 2020.

According to the CMS Telemedicine Fact Sheet, as of March 6th telehealth services provided by doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers will be covered. The visits do require audio and visual capabilities for real-time communication. Additionally, the requirements for telehealth sessions are considered the same as an in office visit and will be paid at the same in-office evaluation rate.

Some of the same evaluation and management rules still apply in regard to whether a patient is established with a provider. For established patients a “Virtual Check In” may be billed with HCPCS code G2010 or G2012. Providers can respond by telephone, which can be billed under G2012, provided that there is a 5 to 10 minute discussion regarding care. Patients can also communicate with the provider via video or images which can be billed under G2010.

For E-visits, the patient must initiate the contact with the provider and must be established with the provider. The time period included in an E-visit is 7 days, and providers can bill for these services as code range 99421-99423, and HCPCS codes G2061-G2063, as applicable. The time requirements start at 5 to 10 minutes, and 21 minutes or more for the highest level codes.

While the legislative changes for telehealth medicine helps to stop the spread of COVID-19 by minimizing exposure, the new rules also offer new opportunities for those providers whose practices have been shut down due to the pandemic restrictions. While many practices have either stopped seeing patients altogether or are seeing emergent cases only, the new telehealth rules allow patients to have access to care and offers some income potential to those practices whose finances have been drastically impacted by the pandemic.

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