April 23, 2020
Leveraging the use of telehealth technologies has become a critical component of ensuring beneficiaries receive necessary care while protecting both healthcare workers and patients from COVID-19. This past week there have been a number of telehealth-related updates including the creation of an HHS telehealth website, clarity on flexibilities for rural health centers (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), and updates on funding opportunities.
HHS Establishes Telehealth Website
The Department of Health and Human Services established a telehealth website that centralizes resources for healthcare professionals and patients.
Resources for healthcare professionals include: getting started, planning telehealth workflow, preparing patients for telehealth, policy changes during the public health emergency, billing and reimbursement, and legal considerations.
Resources for patients include understanding telehealth, telehealth during the COVID-19 emergency, finding telehealth options, and preparing for a video visit.
RHC and FQHC Telehealth Flexibilities During the PHE
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an article providing additional clarity on the current telehealth flexibilities for rural health clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
RHCs and FQHCs are permitted to furnish approved distant site telehealth services for the duration of the current PHE. RHCs and FQHCs are directed to report code G2025 for services that are furnished via telehealth. CMS set payment rates for RHCs and FQHCs at $92 for distant site telehealth services provided during the PHE. The agency outlines how these facilities will be reimbursed during the emergency and claims adjusted to reflect this new payment rate.
FCC Provides Additional Supports for Providers through Telehealth Program Fund
Through the CARES Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was appropriated $200 million to support the provider’s implementation and use of telehealth technologies during the current PHE. The application portal for these funds opened on Monday, April 13; and it was announced that within three days there was approved funding to 11 providers across 8 states for a total of $6.94 million in support funding.
These funds are limited to nonprofit and public eligible healthcare providers, and the FCC will continue distributing support funds until the appropriated amount has run out or the public PHE ends.
Webinar Announced on HIPAA Privacy and Security Issues and COVID-19
HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has scheduled a webinar for stakeholders on HIPAA privacy and security and COVID-19.
Friday, April 24, 2020
12:00 – 1:00 PM (ET)
How to Join:
Registration is open here.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the intention to exercise discretion of how the agency will apply privacy and security rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) during the current public health emergency (PHE). HHS does not intend to issue penalties for HIPAA noncompliance against covered healthcare providers furnishing telehealth services during the COVID-19 PHE. Providers are protected for all care provided whether or not it is related to COVID-19. With this new flexibility, providers and patients are permitted to connect with audio/visual real-time communications through popular applications such as FaceTime or Google Hangouts.
HHS provides updates and additional information about HIPAA during the COVID-19 PHE on the HIPAA, Civil Rights, and COVID-19 webpage.
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