Congress Passes Coronavirus Funding, Telehealth Waivers

In response to spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, Congress passed an $8.3 billion supplemental appropriations package designed to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. This new federal spending will largely be directed to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to be used for stockpiling medical supplies, conducting research, and supporting community health centers as they encounter increased patient demand.

The supplemental package also allows for waivers to certain telehealth requirements during the coronavirus emergency. Specifically, the waivers will allow for telehealth services regardless of whether or not the beneficiary resides in a rural area. In addition the originating site requirement is also eligible to be waived, in effect allowing for telehealth to be provided in a Medicare beneficiary’s home. However, these waivers will only apply to physicians and practitioners, meaning home health and hospice providers will not be eligible to partake in these telehealth waivers.

“We are pleased that Congress quickly approved this critical bipartisan supplemental appropriations package in response to COVID-19,” Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, president of the AMA, said in a statement. “It is particularly important that it will lift Medicare restrictions on the use of telehealth during this public health emergency—something that will limit further exposure and help stop the spread of the virus in the health care setting. Funding for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and medical supplies is necessary to bolster the health care response to COVID-19.”