CMS Adds to Telehealth Services Covered During COVID-19


October 28, 2020

By Fran Kritz

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded the list of telehealth services that Medicare Fee For Service will pay during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list of 11 services includes neurostimulator programming and monitoring, cardiac rehabilitation, and pulmonary rehabilitation.

“This action is the latest indication of CMS’ strong support for increased telehealth utilization. However, there is a limit to what CMS can do within current law, particularly in making access to important services via telehealth permanent,” said Kyle Zebley, director, public policy, of the American Telemedicine Association, which has advocated for the services to remain after the public health emergency ends.

CMS vastly expanded telehealth services for Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. In May, the agency modified the process for adding or deleting services from the Medicare telehealth services list, so that adding telehealth services could be expedited during the public health emergency, according to CMS administrator Seema Verma. Along with the Federal Communications Commission, CMS has pushed to establish telemedicine as a permanent fixture of the U.S. healthcare system.

Already permitted telehealth services under Medicare during COVID-19 include emergency room visits, initial inpatient and nursing facility visits, and discharge day management services. According to CMS, between mid-March and mid-August 2020, more than 12.1 million Medicare beneficiaries—more than 36% of people with Medicare Fee-For-Service—received a telemedicine service.

The full list of 11 new services includes:

  • Cardiac rehab
  • Cardiac rehab/monitor
  • In-person ventricular assist device interrogation
  • Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse without programming
  • Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter with programming
  • Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter
  • Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, by physician or other qualified healthcare professional; with brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter programming; first 15 minutes face-to-face with physician or other qualified healthcare professional
  • Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, by physician or other qualified healthcare professional; with brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter programming; each additional 15 minutes face-to-face with physician or other qualified healthcare professional
  • Intensive cardiac rehab with exercise
  • Intensive cardiac rehab, no exercise
  • Pulmonary rehab with exercise