Caitlin Clement|8/25/2022|3 min read

House Passes Telehealth Extension Bill Through 2024

Medicare coverage for telehealth services likely to be extended

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Those enrolled in Medicare have come to enjoy the ease and convenience of telehealth and its telemedicine services. Much of the coverage that was allotted over the last couple of years was in response to reducing the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, keeping immunocompromised patients safe and managing a major medical staffing shortage.

However, telehealth has grown on us, and providers, clinics and health systems have started to work it into their patient health care plans and practice. Over the last couple years, its use in mental and behavioral health became the preferable mode of treatment for certain populations as well as benefiting those suffering from chronic conditions, living in rural areas, providers facing burnout and others.

The Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act of 2022 bill was overwhelmingly passed by the House on August 10 with a vote of 416 to 12 and is now headed to the Senate. If passed, the bill will pass into law key waivers that have been barriers to Medicare telehealth reimbursement until Dec. 2024.

Although the bill does have an expiration date, it’s intended to give experts time to research and determine a more permanent solution.

Key takeaways from the telehealth extension bill:

  • Beneficiaries continue to receive telehealth services at any site, regardless of type or location.

  • Occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists can continue to furnish telehealth services.

  • Federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics can continue to serve as the distant site (i.e., the location of the health care practitioner).

  • Evaluation, management and behavioral health services can continue to be provided via audio-only technology.

  • Hospice physicians and nurse practitioners may continue to complete certain requirements relating to patient recertifications via telehealth.

What does this mean for digital health companies?

The push towards continued Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services, including audio-only telehealth, bodes well for those who offer virtual care services. While the bill, if passed by the senate, would only be valid until Dec. 2024, it’s simply a placeholder and has sparked discussions of a more permanent reimbursement on its way. As of right now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and other governmental agencies don’t have enough research to settle on a permanent solution. The next year and a half will hopefully provide the data they need to legislate a more solidified reimbursement plan.

It's important to note that there is no discussion to faze out telehealth, in fact, this bill shows the opposite. They are simply trying to decide what it will look like as a permanent medical practice option. Currently, there are 64 million Americans covered by Medicare. Almost all of them being 65+ including younger people with disabilities or End Stage Renal Failure. All patients demographics that have shown to benefit the most from virtual care options.

Continued access to Medicare reimbursement means telehealth companies can offer more affordable virtual care services and lower the financial barrier to quality care for many patients.

Does this include Medicaid and private insurers?

Private payers and Medicaid are a little different and aren’t included in this current bill. The bill refers only to the federally run Medicare, leaving Medicaid and private insurer policies to the states to decide. Currently 43 states and the District of Columbia have some form of private payer policy toward telehealth services.

The National Conference of State Legislatures’ website has a great resource that shows which states currently hold policies and what they are.

As telehealth continues to prove its validity as a virtual care practice, providers and patients alike are turning to it as an alternative to in-person patient care. The bill indicates that the government and private insurers have taken notice of the demand for better healthcare options. Digital health companies and telemedicine providers have shown that telehealth can be cost effective without sacrificing the quality of care given to the patients.

Looking to expand your payer coverage? Tap into OpenLoop.

Expanding your payer coverage and understanding the nuances of the process can be a headache—but you don’t have to do this on your own! OpenLoop has spent years building a certified network of clinicians covered by 600+ insurance plans including Medicare and Medicaid. Our providers support over 300 million patient lives and exceed 90% coverage by nationwide insurance payers.

What does partnering with OpenLoop look like?

  • Comprehensive 50-state payer coverage

  • Full range of telehealth codes

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  • Every major insurance payer

  • Incident to billing coverage

Our expansive network of payer coverage is built to strategically streamline your reimbursement and payment process while expanding your patient network. We have everything you need from first visit to final payment.

Ready to learn more? Get in touch here!

Note: This article will be updated as the bill progresses

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