2022 Physician Fee Schedule maintains telehealth expansion for now

The Medicare telehealth expansion will continue at least until Dec. 31, 2022.

Some of the services added to the Medicare telehealth service list as part of the nation’s response to COVID-19 in 2020 have been continued until at least Dec. 31, 2023, as part of the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule.

According to a fact sheet from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency is still evaluating which of these temporarily added services should remain on the Medicare services list at the conclusion of the COVID-19 public health emergency, but in the meantime has chosen to leave them all on until at least the end of 2023.

The agency has also extended the inclusion of some cardiac and intensive cardiac rehabilitation codes through the end of calendar year 2023, giving more time for CMS and other stakeholders to gather data and submit support for the services to be permanently added to the Medicare telehealth services list. Coding and payment for longer virtual check-in services is also now permanently included, the fact sheet says.

CMS is also amending the definition of interactive telecommunications system for telehealth to also include audio-only communications technology when used for diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of mental health disorders furnished to established patients in their homes under certain circumstances, according to the fact sheet.

Other items of interest in the new fee schedule include:

  • The CY 2022 fee schedule conversion factor is $33.59, a $1.30 decrease from the CY 2021 fee schedule, reflecting a statutory update of zero percent and adjustment necessary to account for relative value unit and expenditure changes.
  • CMS will continue paying $40 a dose for administering the COVID-19 vaccines through the end of the calendar year in which the public health emergency ends. Starting Jan. 1 of the year after, payment for these vaccines will be set at a rate consistent of other Part B vaccines
  • The agency continues an ongoing review of evaluation and management visit payment code sets finalizing several policies that take recent coding changes into account.

“While the American Medical Association (AMA) will thoroughly analyze the 2,400+ page rule, it is a reminder of the financial peril facing physician practices at the end of the year," AMA President Gerald E. Harmon says in a separate release. "The final rule includes a reduction in the 2022 Medicare conversion factor of about 3.85 percent. The AMA is strongly advocating for Congress to avert this and other looming cuts to Medicare physician payments that, overall, will produce a combined 9.75 percent cut for 2022. This comes at a time when physician practices are still recovering the personal and financial impacts of the COVID public health emergency. Congress is beginning to recognize that this financial instability could limit health care access for Medicare patients. The clock is ticking."