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  • End of Covid-19 Emergency Period - Medicare Therapy Waivers

End of the Covid-19 Emergency Period 

President Biden on Monday signed H.J.Res.7 terminating the national emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic, a month before the White House had said the president would unilaterally end national emergency declarations related to the pandemic. 

The federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID-19 declared under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, is not the same as the COVID-19 National Emergency declared by the Trump Administration in 2020 and implicated by H.J.Res.7.  

An end to the COVID-19 National Emergency does not impact current operations at HHS, and does not impact the planned May 11, 2023 expiration of the federal PHE for COVID-19 or any associated unwinding plans. 

Virtual Supervision

CMS temporarily changed the definition of “direct supervision” to allow the supervising health care professional to be immediately available through virtual presence using real-time audio/video technology instead of requiring their physical presence. CMS also clarified that the temporary exception to allow immediate availability for direct supervision through virtual presence also facilitates the provision of telehealth services by clinical staff “incident to” the professional services of physicians and other practitioners.  This provision applies to physical and occupational therapists supervising assistants in private practice. 

This flexibility will expire on December 31, 2023.

Medicare and Telehealth

During the PHE, individuals with Medicare had broad access to telehealth services, including in their homes, without the geographic or location limits that usually apply as a result of waivers issued by the Secretary, facilitated by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. “Telehealth” includes services provided through telecommunications systems (for example, computers and phones) and allows health care providers to give care to patients remotely in place of an in-person office visit.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, extended many telehealth flexibilities through December 31, 2024, such as:

    • People with Medicare can access telehealth services in any geographic area in the United States, rather than only those in rural areas.
    • People with Medicare can stay in their homes for telehealth visits that Medicare pays for rather than traveling to a health care facility.
    • Certain telehealth visits can be delivered audio-only (such as a telephone) if someone is unable to use both audio and video, such as a smartphone or computer.

List of Telehealth Services

Reference

CMS Waivers, Flexibilities, and the Transition Forward from the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

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