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Analysis

CMS Announces Pay Parity for Audio-only Telephone Visits

By John Commins  
   April 30, 2020

The rule change was part of a broad package of waivers and rules shifts that were brought forward Thursday by CMS in to facilitate COVID-19 testing and expand access to telehealth.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Thursday said it will bump up payments for audio-only telephone consultations to match payments made for office and outpatients visits.

The new rule would increase payments for audio-only telephone consultations from $14-$41 to about $46-$110, CMS said in a media release.

The rule change was part of a broad package of waivers and rules shifts that were brought forward Thursday by CMS in to facilitate testing and expand access to telehealth.

Physician associations cheered the news.

The American Medical Association called the pay parity "a major victory for medicine that will enable physicians to care for their patients, especially their elderly patients with chronic conditions who may not have access to audio-visual technology or high-speed Internet. This change will help patients address their health challenges that existed before COVID-19."

Jacqueline Fincher, MD, president of the American College of Physicians, said the "change in payment policy addresses one of the biggest issues facing physicians as they struggle to make up for lost revenue and provide appropriate care to patients."

"ACP has repeatedly requested this change from CMS as the country has been dealing with the COVID-19 national emergency and we are heartened that they have heard our concerns," she said.

Fincher said the increased payments are coming at a critical time for both providers and their patients.

"Right now, due to a drastic decrease in in-office patient visits, many practices are struggling to remain open and continue providing needed care," she said. "Many seniors and other vulnerable patients lack the capability to conduct video visits with their physicians, so those patients are being cared for with telephone-only visits that were reimbursed at a much lower rate."

“ACP has repeatedly requested this change from CMS as the country has been dealing with the COVID-19 national emergency and we are heartened that they have heard our concerns.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The new rule would increase payments for audio-only telephone consultations from $14-$41 to about $46-$110, CMS said in a media release.

Jacqueline Fincher, MD, president of the American College of Physicians, said the "change in payment policy addresses one of the biggest issues facing physicians as they struggle to make up for lost revenue and provide appropriate care to patients."


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