The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing changes to expand telehealth permanently, consistent with the Executive Order on Improving Rural and Telehealth Access that President Trump signed today. The Executive Order and proposed rule advance our efforts to improve access and convenience of care for Medicare beneficiaries, particularly those living in rural areas. Additionally, the proposed rule implements a multi-year effort to reduce clinician burden under our Patients Over Paperwork initiative and to ensure appropriate reimbursement for time spent with patients. This proposed rule also takes steps to implement President Trump’s Executive Order on Protecting and Improving Medicare for our Nation’s Seniors and continues our commitment to ensure that the Medicare program is sustainable for future generations.
Expanding Beneficiary Access to Care through Telehealth
Over the last three years, as part of the Fostering Innovation and Rethinking Rural Health strategic initiatives CMS has been working to modernize Medicare by unleashing private sector innovations and improve beneficiary access to services furnished via telecommunications technology. Starting in 2019, Medicare began paying for virtual check-ins, meaning patients across the country can briefly connect with doctors by phone or video chat to see whether they need to come in for a visit. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS moved swiftly to significantly expand payment for telehealth services and implement other flexibilities so that Medicare beneficiaries living in all areas of the country can get convenient and high-quality care from the comfort of their home while avoiding unnecessary exposure to the virus. Before the public health emergency (PHE), only 14,000 beneficiaries received a Medicare telehealth service in a week while over 10.1 million beneficiaries have received a Medicare telehealth service during the public health emergency from mid-March through early-July. For more information on Medicare’s unprecedented increases in telemedicine and its impact on the health care delivery system, visit the CMS Health Affairs blog here.
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As directed by President Trump’s Executive Order on Improving Rural and Telehealth Access, through this rule, CMS is taking steps to extend the availability of certain telemedicine services after the PHE ends, giving Medicare beneficiaries more convenient ways to access healthcare particularly in rural areas where access to healthcare providers may otherwise be limited Improving Rural and Telehealth Access.