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Get to Know the Public Health Emergency: Telehealth Flexibilities

 
The federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) ushered in flexibilities for care provided via telehealth. Read on to learn more about the status of the PHE and what it means for the future of telehealth.
 
The federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) has been in effect since January 2020. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated that it will give states 60 days' notice prior to ending the Public Health Emergency.1

The current PHE is set to expire in mid-October 2022, but HHS is past the 60-day notice period, indicating the PHE will be extended for at least another 90 days, through mid-January 2023. 
 
Status of Telehealth Flexibilities  
The PHE has allowed providers, including community health centers, to expand access to telehealth services by providing flexibilities that were not traditionally allowed under Medicare. When Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act in March, the bill included an extension of Medicare telehealth flexibilities for five months after Public Health Emergency ends including:  
  • Health centers will continue to be recognized as distant sites 
  • Geographic restrictions on originating sites will continue to be waived (allowing telehealth to be delivered in patient homes) 
  • Coverage for audio-only telehealth will continue  
  • The in-person visit requirements for Medicare patients that receive behavioral health services through telehealth will continue to be delayed 
As of January 1, 2022, Medicare will permanently reimburse community health centers for behavioral health services provided via telehealth. Although health centers can provide behavioral health services beyond the PHE, medical visits via telehealth will no longer be covered beyond 5 months after the end of the PHE without additional action. 
 
Congressional Action
In July, the House of Representatives passed the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act, which would extend Medicare telehealth flexibilities through December 31, 2024, or the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, whichever occurs later. The bill would continue to allow coverage of audio-only telehealth services and delay the in-person visit requirements for Medicare behavioral health services delivered via telehealth.

However, the bill has not been passed by the Senate.  
 
Contineud Advocacy for Telehealth Policies
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), Primary Care Associations (PCAs) and health centers across the country are continuing to advocate for permanent telehealth policies that expand care for patients.

Learn more about telehealth priorities for health centers >>>
 
 
 
[1] Declarations of a Public Health Emergency. (2022). Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response. Retrieved from https://aspr.hhs.gov/legal/PHE/Pages/default.aspx
 
 
 

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