The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has clarified that outpatient therapists can continue to bill Medicare Part B for telehealth services across a range of facilities, including home health, as it did during the pandemic.
The update represents a positive development for hospital-based therapists. As the end of the PHE loomed, it appeared that these therapists could not continue to provide services through telehealth. Earlier this month, CMS reversed course and said the therapists could continue to provide telehealth services. CMS further clarified the use of Medicare Part B outpatient therapy services for other settings, including home health agencies, in a FAQ sheet on May 19.
Katie Wehri, director of home care and hospice regulatory affairs for the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse the decision to allow the use of telehealth for Medicare Part B outpatient therapy services makes sense.
“We support using telehealth when appropriate, so in that sense, we think it’s great,” she said.
Kate Gilliard, the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) director of health policy and payment, said in a statement that APTA was “extremely happy” with CMS’s decision to continue telehealth coverage.
She also, however, raised concerns to McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse over when the extension will end.
“They [CMS] did put an end date for hospital outpatient departments at the end of 2023, but we’re very uncertain where they are getting that date from,” she said, in reference to their decision earlier this month to extend telehealth coverage for hospital-based facilities.
Congress last year passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, which directed CMS to extend access to therapy delivered via telehealth through Dec. 31, 2024. Gilliard said APTA would like to see CMS respect that date.
“At the bare minimum, right now, we’d like to see the Consolidated Appropriations Act enforced and implemented,” she said.
She also said that APTA, along with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association, will continue to meet with CMS to discuss the future of telehealth coverage. She also said they will meet with providers to discuss the legal implications of CMS’s decision.
“We’ll want to address CMS and other institutional providers, like home health agencies, to make sure that we know what people can and can’t do and when they can and can’t do it,” she said.
Still, Gilliard sees the decision as progress and is happy providers have more clarity on their telehealth situations.
“The worst part about this whole thing was the uncertainty. People for a few weeks just plum didn’t know what was legal or not,” she said.