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Internists Say Flexibilities for Telehealth and Other Regulatory Waivers Should be Extended

Washington, DC (June 4, 2020) In a letter sent this afternoon to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) the American College of Physicians (ACP) said that many of the accommodations that have been put in place to expand the use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as some of the other regulatory waivers, should remain in place after the period of a public health emergency (PHE) is over. 

“It is clear that the policy changes provided by CMS to allow for increased access to and use of telehealth functionality and virtual care have played a pivotal role in mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while providing a source of much needed revenue for physician practices across the country,” wrote Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president, ACP in the letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

In the letter ACP called for changes in policies and waivers to remain in effect through the end of 2021, or until vaccines or treatments for COVID-19 are widely available; with the possibility of extending them or making them permanent based on what is learned by using the revised policies.  The policies and waivers that ACP cited that should remain in effect include:

  • Pay Parity for Audio-Only and Telehealth Services
  • Geographical Site Restriction Waivers
  • Telehealth Cost-Sharing Waivers
  • Flexibilities in Direct Supervision by Physicians at Teaching Hospitals 
  • Revised Policies for Remote Patient Monitoring Services
  • Interstate Licensure Flexibility for Telehealth and Promotion of State-Level Action
  • Facility Fee Payment for Provider-based Departments 

“Many of these flexibilities and policy changes are due to expire at the conclusion of the PHE, wherein patients and physician practices would be expected to revert back to primarily face-to-face services without any type of risk-based assessment necessary for gradually reopening medical practices and health systems to care for non-COVID and non-acute patients.  This quick reversal in policy does not take into account patients’ comfort level in returning to physician offices to seek necessary care and is not an effective way to recover from the PHE, nor prepare for possible future outbreaks,” continued Dr. Fincher. “The College believes that the patient care and revenue opportunities afforded by telehealth functionality will continue to play a significant role within the U.S. healthcare system and care delivery models, even after the PHE is lifted.”

Read the detailed recommendations in the letter here.

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 159,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Jackie Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org