HHS Awards Additional Funds for Telehealth

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has authorized the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) to allocate an additional $20 million to telehealth infrastructure and access.

HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) awarded $15 million to four different organizations to further develop their telehealth services for pregnant women, families, children, and adolescents amid COVID-19.

An additional $5 million was awarded through the Licensure Portability Grant Program to aid licensing boards and national compacts in developing a streamlined process for telehealth providers to obtain multi-state licensure and credentialing.

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New Telehealth Guidelines and a Veto in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has vetoed SB 857, over an amendment that banned the prescribing of mifepristone, which induces medical abortions, via telehealth.

Gov. Wolf issued the Cross-Agency Telehealth Guidelines to accomplish some of the provisions SB 857 would have implemented in continued efforts to fight COVID.

The guidelines expand the list of acceptable telehealth providers, expand telehealth coverage under Medicaid, “notes the Pennsylvania Insurance Department’s expectations for telehealth coverage by private insurers, [and] enables Early Intervention programs to use telehealth and expands telemental health opportunities, including for substance abuse programs.”

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New CMS Tehelealth Waivers and Guidelines in Light of COVID

CMS has released a new round of waivers for telehealth to address the Public Health Emergency (PHE).

For the duration of the PHE, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists will be eligible to bill for telehealth services.

CMS is waiving the required use of video telehealth for a variety of services.

Opioid Treatment Programs may conduct periodic assessments via audio-only telephone in situations where beneficiaries do not have access to two-way video-audio technology.

Medicare will now cover and reimburse telehealth services provided by Rural Health Centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers as acceptable distant sites, per mandate by the CARES Act.

The restrictions on home-based and out-patient telehealth reimbursement for hospitals has been loosened to allow reimbursement as long as the services meets certain criteria.

CMS also issued a new telehealth code approval procedure that operates more quickly, though any new codes will only remain in effect during the public health emergency.

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