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Audit of Home Health Services Provided as Telehealth During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to take proactive steps to support the response to COVID-19 through the use of section 1135 waivers. By means of this authority, CMS waived certain requirements in order to expand Medicare telehealth benefits to health care professionals who were previously ineligible, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and others. However, the waiver does not allow for payment of telehealth services on home health claims. In the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Interim Final Rule With Comment, CMS amended regulations on an interim basis to allow home health agencies to use telecommunications systems in conjunction with in-person visits. In the CY 2021 Home Health PPS Final Rule, CMS permanently finalized these changes. The final amended regulations state that the plan of care must include any provision of remote patient monitoring or other services furnished via telecommunications technology or audio-only technology, and that such services must be tied to patient-specific needs as identified in the comprehensive assessment. They further state that telehealth services cannot substitute for a home visit ordered as part of the plan of care, and cannot be considered a home visit for the purposes of patient eligibility or payment. We will evaluate home health services provided by agencies during the COVID-19 public health emergency to determine which types of skilled services were furnished via telehealth, and whether those services were administered and billed in accordance with Medicare requirements. We will report as overpayments any services that were improperly billed. We will make appropriate recommendations to CMS based on the results of our review.

Announced or Revised Agency Title Component Report Number(s) Expected Issue Date (FY)
Revised Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Audit of Home Health Services Provided as Telehealth During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Office of Audit Services W-00-21-35864 2023