Regulatory Alert: CMS Increases Telehealth Payments and Makes ACO Changes

Originally published on April 30, 2020 by MGMA
Reprinted with permission from MGMA

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued another round of regulatory waivers through an interim final rule intended to expand care to Medicare beneficiaries and provide more flexibilities to the providers that treat them. The changes outlined below will be effective for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).

Changes to telehealth policy:

  • Following MGMA advocacy, CMS is increasing payment for audio-only telephone E/M services (CPT codes 99441-99443) such that they are paid at the same rate as similar office and outpatient E/M visits, resulting in increased payments from $14-$41 to $46-$110. CMS believes that the resources required to furnish these services during the PHE are better captured by RVUs associated with level 2-4 established office/outpatient E/M visits. CMS is not increasing payment for CPT codes 98966-98968, which are intended for practitioners that cannot separately bill for E/M. This policy is retroactive to March 1, 2020.
  • For telehealth services other than CPT codes 99441-99443 and 98966-98968 (now added to the list of covered telehealth services), Medicare continues to require modalities that have both audio and video capabilities.
  • CMS is forgoing its typical rulemaking process to add new services to the list of Medicare services that may be furnished via telehealth. Instead, CMS will add new telehealth services on a sub-regulatory basis to speed up the process of adding codes to the list.

Changes to Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP):

  • There will be no application cycle for a Jan. 1, 2021 start date, and ACOs in the last performance year of their current agreement period (mainly Track 1 ACOs and Track 1+ Model ACOs) will be allowed to voluntarily extend their agreement period by an additional performance year in 2021.
  • ACOs participating in the BASIC track glide path will be permitted to maintain their current risk level under the BASIC track for PY 2021 and freeze progression to higher risk.
  • CMS is removing all Part A and B payment amounts for episodes of care involving the treatment of COVID-19 for the purposes of determining benchmark year and performance year expenditures.
  • The list of primary care services used for beneficiary attribution will be expanded to include additional telemedicine services.

MGMA Government Affairs will continue to inform medical groups as the Administration releases additional waivers and further guidance on COVID-19 related regulatory changes. CMS’ press release on the changes can be found here and a fact sheet on MSSP changes can be found here.

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