Some temporary telehealth provisions will become permanent, CMS chief says

The number of CMS beneficiaries has grown from 12,000 weekly telehealth visits to "well into six figures" during the pandemic, and both President Donald Trump and CMS Administrator Seema Verma aim to continue those benefits.

Kellyanne Conway, assistant to the president and senior counselor, and Ms. Verma spoke at a recent news teleconference and discussed, among other topics, their efforts regarding telehealth. During the pandemic, CMS has expanded access to telehealth visits so all beneficiaries are covered for audio and video visits during the pandemic. The agency also updated coverage rates to pay the same rate as in-person visits for the duration of the crisis. Previously, telehealth visits had lower reimbursement rates.

Ms.,Conway said that the president would like telehealth access to continue "long after the virus is completely vanquished."

Ms. Verma echoed that sentiment, saying that the president "has made it clear that he wants to explore extending telehealth benefits more widely."

She also said that the administration had made strides toward expanding access to telehealth before the pandemic.

"We had increased the amount of services that qualify for telehealth and even provided small, kind of, short visits over the phone or through Skype, even before the coronavirus," she said. "So we're looking at all of the waivers that we provided. We're evaluating them to determine whether they should be extended past the coronavirus."

She also said that the agency is in the process of rulemaking and she expected some provisions that had been extended during the pandemic temporarily to become permanent.

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