The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) included provisions to expand reimbursement for telehealth services for mental and behavioral health care in the proposed 2022 Physician Fee Schedule released Tuesday. The proposal includes paying providers for audio-only services.
Telehealth use was widely expanded by CMS following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the agency cannot make these changes permanent without the assistance of Congress. According to Fierce Healthcare, CMS wants to pay providers for behavioral health services for audio-only telehealth calls but only when certain conditions are met. This would include therapy and counseling for addiction treatments. From the CMS release:
These changes would be particularly helpful for those in areas with poor broadband infrastructure and among people with Medicare who are not capable of, or do not consent to the use of, devices that permit a two-way, audio/video interaction for their healthcare visits.
CMS proposed to decrease the conversion factor over a dollar to $33.58 beginning January 1, 2022, and the conversion factor reflects an update of 0% in order to maintain budget neutrality, RevCycleIntelligence reports. The rule will also pay physicians for mental health visits to rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers.
CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure argues these are necessary steps in decreasing health inequities among rural and vulnerable U.S. populations:
Over the past year, the public health emergency has highlighted the disparities in the U.S. health care system, while at the same time demonstrating the positive impact of innovative policies to reduce these disparities,. CMS aims to take the lessons learned during this time and move forward toward a system where no patient is left out and everyone has access to comprehensive quality health services.
Get more from the CMS press release