On Monday, the American Medical Association (AMA) asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to continue paying for audio-only telehealth visits beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).
“Payment for audio-only visits has been a lifeline for patients during the COVID-19 PHE — the need for these services to be available will not diminish when the PHE ends,” AMA CEO James Madara, M.D., wrote in a letter to CMS Administrator Elizabeth Richter.
Prior to the pandemic, CMS only reimbursed for telehealth visits if both audio and video were used, but those regulations were loosened with the onset of the pandemic when CMS announced the Hospitals Without Walls program. Eliminating audio-only visits could disproportionately impact people living in rural areas and some urban areas that lack broadband access according to a recent research letter by the Rand Corporation.
AMA’s request echoes the recent recommendation of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advised Congress to extend telehealth two years beyond the PHE.
AMA is also asking CMS to take needed measures to compensate providers for additional infection-control expenses they incurred during the pandemic, including the purchase of personal protective equipment.