The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is exploring whether it could make emergency changes to telehealth regulations permanent once the coronavirus pandemic is over.
Expanding telehealth is at the top of the list of changes the agency is eyeing, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Wednesday in a call with reporters.
Verma has long been trying to make it easier for doctors to practice telehealth, but has encountered wariness from doctors and patients over quality of care and competition. There are also concerns about fraudulent Medicare payments for the practice.
The main barrier, however, has been a lack of interest from Congress. The CMS made changes to allow for greater use of telehealth prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, but it can’t make more changes without further action from lawmakers, Verma said.
With patients getting used to the practice during the outbreak, it’s possible there will be interest from Congress. “We will be assessing this fully after we get past the pandemic,” Verma said.
Other Pandemic Moves
Verma also told reporters that the CMS has approved a total of $87 billion in advance Medicare payments to health-care providers, an increase of $36 billion from last week. The payments are a loan to providers.
The CMS and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also are working to enhance Covid-19 reporting requirements for nursing homes, Verma said. Nursing homes will be the “foundation of our surveillance efforts,” and critical to re-opening the country, she said.