An NCART position paper is urging Congress to make Medicare’s telehealth option for Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) permanent.
During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), occupational and physical therapists have been able to remotely participate in CRT seating and mobility evaluations with Medicare beneficiaries. “Medicare beneficiaries with significant disabilities are currently able to access critical, medically necessary care during the COVID-19 pandemic via telehealth due to flexibilities put in place by Congress and CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services],” the NCART position paper says.
“Unfortunately, when the Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends, the ability for Medicare beneficiaries to access needed CRT via telehealth will also end unless Congress acts.”
The paper asserts that even without the worries of a pandemic, consumers who use CRT would benefit from being able to meet with clinicians remotely. For example, the paper notes a limited number of qualified seating and wheeled mobility practitioners nationwide, which can force some consumers to travel long distances if they’re required to attend appointments in person.
The paper also cites transportation challenges for people who must be transported in their wheelchairs; notes that being able to see the consumer use CRT equipment in their homes can offer the clinical team additional insight; and points out that attending multiple clinic appointments can be physically exhausting for wheelchair users, especially those with progressive conditions, cardio/respiratory issues, high tone or abnormal reflexes, or those who fatigue easily.
The position paper is asking for Congress to permanently add the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes that have been temporarily allowed for telehealth during the PHE. NCART is asking for “Therapy Services, Physical and Occupational Therapy, All Levels” CPT codes to be added to Medicare’s Telehealth Services list. The codes in question are 97112, 97161 to 97168, 97542, 97750, 97755, and 97760.
NCART is also asking for Congress to permanently add physical and occupational therapists as authorized Medicare telehealth service practitioners for CRT services covered by those CPT codes.
“Congress must act as CMS lacks the statutory authority to expand the definition of ‘practitioner’ outside of its emergency waiver authority under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act,” the paper says. “When the PHE expires, so does CMS’ Section 1135 authority under which it waived the current definition of ‘practitioner’ to allow PTs
and OTs to bill directly for telehealth.”
Read the paper here.