CMS telehealth update ensures audio-only services remain covered after PHE ends

This week, CMS released a supplemental document to the State Medicaid & CHIP Telehealth Toolkit, which offered guidance on state policies regarding coverage for telehealth services. The provision ensures audio-only coverage will be included.

 

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Specifically, the supplement clarifies that coverage for audio-only services will remain in place after the public health emergency declaration, which could end as soon as January 2022.

“Nothing in federal Medicaid law or policy prevents states from covering and paying for Medicaid services that are delivered via audio-only technologies. This broad flexibility to cover and pay for Medicaid services delivered via telehealth, including via audio-only technologies, was in place prior to the COVID-19 PHE, has not changed during the COVID-19 PHE, and will continue to be available to states after the end of the COVID-19 PHE.”

The coverage of audio-only telehealth services is essential to providing access to care in Maryland, according to Rebecca Canino, administrative director at Johns Hopkins Telemedicine. At a recent webinar hosted by the Maryland Daily Record, Canino noted not all patients, at least those at Hopkins, have access to the data or broadband needed for audio and video telehealth services. 

“While we may be covered with broadband, folks don’t have access to it. They do not have the financial means to have the data packages that they need. Some folks needed video visits every day. That is an extreme amount of data and people just couldn’t afford it so it’s very important that we keep audio only.”

The supplement document can be found here. More information on telehealth coverage is available under the telehealth page of Medicaid.gov.