CMS Update a Victory for Community Health Centers and NACHC
BETHESDA, Md., Dec. 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an updated State Medicaid & CHIP Telehealth Toolkit: Policy Considerations for States Expanding Use of Telehealth, Supplement #1 that confirmed that states may continue to cover audio-only telehealth visits for Medicaid enrollees after the end of the federal public health emergency (PHE) and continue to receive federal financial participation at the state's matching rate.
A recent NACHC survey showed that the percentage of health centers using telehealth jumped from 43% before the pandemic
This action bolsters recent efforts by many states since mid-2020 to make Medicaid telehealth policies permanent. The CMS Toolkit both makes clear that states have maximum flexibility to design their Medicaid telehealth policies as they see fit – which includes permitting audio-only services – and that health centers must be receive their federally mandated reimbursement for these services. NACHC and health center advocates had been raising this issue with Members of Congress and CMS.
"Expanded state and federal telehealth policies preserved access to critical health care services for millions of health center patients during this pandemic," said Joe Dunn, Senior Vice President at NACHC. "We applaud the Biden Administration and CMS for providing this additional clarity and their continued support for telehealth. One of the lessons from this pandemic is that telehealth works – it improves access to care for underserved communities and should be a critical tool for delivering primary care moving forward."
Telehealth services at health centers soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing patients in rural areas and those without access to reliable broadband to continue receiving critical services. A recent NACHC survey showed that the percentage of health centers using telehealth jumped from 43% before the pandemic to 98% during the early months of the crisis. An article published in Pew Stateline recently highlighted how audio-only improved care and saved money at health centers. In a recent NACHC press release William Crumpton, Chief Executive Officer of Compassion Health Care, Inc., located in rural Caswell County, NC, described the importance of audio-only for his patient population:
"For our patients, audio-only telehealth capabilities have been an important lifeline and often the only mechanism for our center to connect with our largely rural and elderly patients, many of whom still have rotary phones in their homes, don't drive a car, do not have smartphone technology. We can't leave these patients behind and take away a tool that they have come to rely on to talk to their provider."
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SOURCE National Association of Community Health Centers