Telehealth and other regulation waivers should continue beyond COVID-19, ACP says

June 5, 2020

The organization says that accommodations for telehealth and other regulatory waivers should remain in place after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic ends.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) is calling for many of the accommodations made for the expansion of telehealth and other regulatory waivers put in place to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to remain in place once the public health emergency (PHE) is averted.                                                 

The call came in a letter sent June 4 to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma.

“It is clear that the policy changes provided by CMS to allow for increased access to and use of telehealth functionality and virtual care have played a pivotal role in mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while providing a source of much needed revenue for physician practices across the country,” wrote Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president of ACP.

The letter seeks for the changes in policies and waivers to remain in effect through the end of 2021, or until vaccines or treatments for COVID-19 are widely available, with the possibility that they are extended further or made permanent depending on what is learned while using the revised policies. 

The policies which ACP seeks to extend include:

·      Equal pay for audio-only and telehealth services

·      Waivers on geographic restrictions

·      Cost-sharing waivers for telehealth

·      Direct supervision flexibilities at teaching hospitals

·      Revised remote patient monitoring services policies

·      Interstate licensure flexibility for telehealth

·      Facility fee payment for provider-based departments

“Many of these flexibilities and policy changes are due to expire at the conclusion of the PHE, wherein patients and physician practices would be expected to revert back to primarily face-to-face services without any type of risk-based assessment necessary for gradually reopening medical practices and health systems to care for non-COVID and non-acute patients,” Fincher wrote. “This quick reversal in policy does not take into account patients’ comfort level in returning to physician offices to seek necessary care and is not an effective way to recover from the PHE, nor prepare for possible future outbreaks.”