Get to Know Telehealth: Medicare Behavioral Health Visits

Community health centers utilized telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide convenient, high-quality care while keeping patients and providers safe and healthy. Medicare recently announced updates to telehealth reimbursement. Read on to learn more about how this affects community health centers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic different payers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers, created more flexible policies around the utilization of telehealth. Many of these policies were conditioned on the status of the federally declared COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). Advocates have pushed to retain telehealth flexibilities beyond the end of the PHE, and momentum is growing across payers to make these flexibilities permanent.
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for folks aged 65 and older recently announced community health centers can permanently reimburse for behavioral health visits conducted via telehealth. 
How do health centers use telehealth to provide behavioral health care? 
Throughout the Public Health Emergency community health centers have reported increased demand for behavioral health visits as patients experienced economic, health, and social disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth quickly became a key method to deliver high-quality behavioral health care while keeping patients and staff safe and healthy. During this time, health centers have also relied on audio-only behavioral health visits when video communication is unavailable. Audio-only behavioral health visits have ensured folks without access to broadband or smart devices can still receive the care they need. 
What is Medicare's new policy? 
Beginning January 1, 2022, Medicare will reimburse community health centers for behavioral health services provided via telehealth outside of the Public Health Emergency. Medicare's new policy will allow community health center to receive reimbursement for behavioral health visits conducted via telehealth as well as audio-only visits if the patient is not able to use video technology.  
Under the new policy, there is a requirement a patient must have had an in-person behavioral health service from the community health centers within the past six months. The patient must also have an in-person behavioral health visit at least once every twelve months after the start of the telehealth visits. However, these requirements are not in effect for the duration of the federal Public Health Emergency. 
To learn more about Medicare's new policy, you can review:



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