The provision, included in the final 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, enables health systems to bill Medicare for telehealth services delivered from the doctor’s home.
A key Medicare reimbursement for health systems the deploy telehealth services has been extended through the end of 2024, along with a measure that gives physicians who work from home some privacy and security.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has included in its final CY 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Medicare reimbursement for providers who use virtual care at home to treat patients. In addition, the provision states that providers will not be required to list their home address as a practice location.
“Clinicians, their loved ones, and other stakeholders can breathe a sigh of relief – at least until the end of 2024 – that Medicare providers will not be required to publicly report their home address as their practice location,” Kyle Zebley, senior vice president of public policy for the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and executive director of ATA Action, said in a press release. “This reprieve will help to maintain the safety and privacy of physicians and removes a significant roadblock to access to care.”
The ATA was among more than 100 organizations, including several large health systems, that wrote a letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure last month asking that the two pandemic-era waivers be extended. The waivers were due to expire at the end of this year.
Supporters have argued that enabling physicians to bill Medicare for telehealth services delivered from their homes will give health systems more leeway to develop virtual care programs that cater to the needs of both patients and providers. This, in turn, would create better, more sustainable and scalable platforms and encourage providers to give the technology a try.
“Allowing appropriately licensed and credentialed providers to practice telehealth from their home improves patient access to healthcare services, reduces healthcare costs, while maintaining and meeting patient demand for care,” the letter stated. “This was necessary during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and remains just as important today amidst provider workforce shortages and burnout, given that 78 percent of health care practitioners agree that retaining the opinion to provide virtual care from a location convenient to the practitioner would ‘significantly reduce the challenges of stress, burnout, or fatigue’ facing their profession and eight in 10 indicate that this flexibility would make them more likely to continue providing medical care.”
Just as important is the ruling that providers don’t have to include their home addresses as a point of care. Increasing numbers of doctors have been targeted by angry consumers, hate groups, and even people looking for some means of accessing opioids, putting the lives of themselves and their families in danger.
Zebley says CMS’ actions have also set the stage for a very busy 2024, telehealth-wise.
“With nearly all of the flexibilities established during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) extended until the end of 2024, we can expect a telehealth policy ‘Super Bowl’ at the end of next year,” he said. “We have the unprecedented opportunity to impact transformative changes to how healthcare is delivered.”
Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.
Health systems looking to make their telehealth platforms more provider-friendly are creating programs that allow their doctors to conduct virtual visits from home.
CMS has extended a pandemic-era waiver that allows doctors to seek Medicare reimbursement for those virtual visits.
The provision also allows doctors to bypass listing their home as a practice location, reducing stress at a time when threats against medical professionals are skyrocketing