CMS Approves Telehealth Billing for OTs & PTs During Pandemic
- By Laurie Watanabe
- May 06, 2020
A critical missing piece of the COVID-19 healthcare puzzle was put into place late last week when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it would allow additional healthcare professionals to bill Medicare for telehealth services during the pandemic.
The April 30 announcement from CMS expanded telehealth billing eligibility to the clinicians most often involved in seating and wheeled mobility evaluations: “For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, CMS is waiving limitations on the types of clinical practitioners that can furnish Medicare telehealth services,” the CMS announcement said. “Prior to this change, only doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certain others could deliver telehealth services. Now, other practitioners are able to provide telehealth services, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists.”
CMS called the move “a historic expansion of telehealth services so that doctors and other providers can deliver a wider range of care to Medicare beneficiaries in their homes. Beneficiaries thus don’t have to travel to a healthcare facility and risk exposure to COVID-19.”
Additionally last week, Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code 97542 for Wheelchair Management was added to the list of telehealth codes that can be billed.
CRT Industry Forms Remote Technology Workgroup
NCART, NRRTS, U.S. Rehab and the Clinician Task Force have been cohosting weekly Webinars to update stakeholders about the quickly changing COVID-19 landscape and how it’s impacting the Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) industry.
In the April 30 Webinar, attendees were told that a Remote Technology Advisory Workgroup has been formed, and a new COVID-19 CRT Remote Technology Advisory is now available to view and share with policy makers.
The Advisory explains that CRT users are at high risk for respiratory illness and other complications, such as pressure injuries, due to their disabilities.
Then the Advisory lists two examples of people who use CRT — a young woman with Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis and a young man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy — and explains why these clients are at high risk, why they urgently need seating and wheeled mobility interventions, and how telehealth options could benefit both.
Telehealth options could be used in multiple ways during the seating and mobility evaluation, fitting, and equipment provision process, the Advisory said.
For example, the Advisory suggested that the physician face-to-face examination could be conducted via phone or audio/video conferencing. The physical therapist (PT) or occupational therapist (OT) evaluation could also be conducted via telehealth, as could the required involvement of a supplier-employed ATP. The assessment of the client’s home could be done by phone, the Advisory said.
In NCART’s April newsletter, Executive Director Don Clayback said the industry continues to work on getting telehealth procedures approved for use in states that haven’t already approved those changes due to the pandemic.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.