In hopes that the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) will soon end, Congress and the administration are evaluating the telehealth expansions and flexibilities put in place to respond to the PHE. As a result, the future for telehealth stakeholders remains uncertain. This article outlines various changes in Medicare telehealth reimbursement policy in effect during the PHE and identifies what actions would be required to make these changes permanent.
Telehealth’s state-by-state regulatory patchwork means that healthcare providers must navigate a variety of regulations that govern which types of care can be provided by virtual means, and even what modalities can be used in different care settings. McDermott’s recent 50-state survey explores the standard and requirements that physicians and nurse practitioners must follow when prescribing non-controlled substances or ordering tests via a telemedicine encounter. Key issues addressed in the survey include:
- In what states are asynchronous solutions permitted?
- What are state rules governing prescriptions when a physician-patient relationship does not exist prior to the telehealth encounter?
- What are state rules on prescribing via audio-visual encounters or audio-only encounters?
- Under what state regulations can a questionnaire be sufficient to create a physician-patient or advance practice registered nurse-patient relationship?
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently published its annual proposed changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, which include several key telehealth and other virtual care-related proposals. The proposals address long-standing restrictions that have historically limited the use of telehealth and virtual care, including geographic and originating site restrictions, and limitations on audio-only care, as well as coverage extensions for some services added during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
COVID-19 served as a major pivot event for the adoption of virtual healthcare solutions. As stay-at-home orders swept the country and the pandemic forced physical isolation, telehealth tools were rapidly rolled out to safely provide necessary services. The reality on the ground forced overnight adoption of virtual care services that otherwise likely would have plodded along for decades.
On March 10, 2021, US Congress finalized and passed the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARPA), the latest COVID-19 relief package that largely tracks President Joe Biden’s initial $1.9 trillion proposal. The ARPA extends unemployment insurance benefits and provides direct $1,400 stimulus payments to qualifying Americans, but it also makes several important health policy-related changes. These include providing funding for vaccine distribution and testing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, making policy adjustments to the Medicaid program, facilitating health insurance coverage and providing more money for healthcare providers. The final bill also makes two narrowly focused technical Medicare payment changes.
This summary highlights notable health policy provisions of the final bill.
The seismic, virtually overnight transformation of healthcare delivery as a result of the pandemic has flung open doors to innovation, as a diverse cross-section of digital health and life sciences stakeholders mobilize crisis resources; adjust operations for enhanced screening, sanitization and social distancing measures; harness telehealth capabilities to deliver healthcare remotely; and identify opportunities for smarter, better healthcare going forward.
Writing for The US-Israel Legal Review, partners from McDermott’s Health practice highlight the challenges and opportunities that digital health and life sciences operators and investors should consider as the industry charts a course through the post-pandemic changed healthcare landscape.
A new president always brings new policy priorities and objectives, particularly when that president is from a different political party than their predecessor. As we begin 2021, and usher in the Biden era, we should likewise expect a significant shift in the health policy agenda.
Writing for the American Health Law Association’s Top 10 Issues in Health Law 2021, McDermott partner Eric Zimmerman discusses the top health policy priorities to watch for from the new administration.
The COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged 2020 spurred workers to take advantage of telemedicine and mental health benefits more frequently, and demand for those services isn’t expected to wane in the near future, experts say.
A recent article in Law360 examined three ways the pandemic had an impact on employee benefits over the past year, with McDermott partner Jacob Mattinson weighing in.
As has been widely noted, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted countless people to rely on telehealth and virtual monitoring for their healthcare needs. This dramatic pivot is catalyzing a demand for digital health tools that will persist post-pandemic, as providers, payers and patients alike grow accustomed to the benefits of digital care.
In a recent article for MedTech Intelligence, McDermott partner Jennifer S. Geetter outlines specific steps that digital health technology developers and providers can take to integrate digital health into our care delivery system.
Telehealth is no longer just a nice-to-have, but instead a must-have for patients and healthcare professionals alike during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lisa Mazur, partner at McDermott Will & Emery specializing in the digital healthcare space, is quoted in a recent Forbes article about why telehealth is here to stay: “Telehealth was already experiencing significant momentum and growth prior to this public health emergency, and its continued trajectory has been solidified by the vital role it is playing in care delivery today.”