Lacktman, Goodman Cited in mHealth Intelligence About CMS Eliminating Most Emergency Codes for Pandemic Telehealth Services

14 August 2020 mHealth Intelligence News
Partner Nate Lacktman and Senior Counsel Rachel Goodman were cited in the mHealth Intelligence article, “CMS May Eliminate Most Emergency Codes for COVID-19 Telehealth Services.”

According to the proposed 2021 Physician Fee Schedule released, CMS is planning to keep nine codes added during the COVID-19 crisis and add 13 new codes. But 74 codes are slated to end when the public health emergency is over. In a blog post about the newest fee schedule, Lacktman and Goodman wrote:

“Although CMS temporarily allows the services addressed by these codes to be delivered via telehealth, CMS found no likelihood of clinical benefit after the PHE ends. Even with the development of additional clinical evidence, CMS believes these services are unlikely to satisfy Category 2 criteria to justify including on a permanent basis.”

The 13 new codes proposed for inclusion in the Physician Fee Schedule are grouped in a new category, Category 3 (the Category 1 codes are slated to remain in place, and the Category 2 codes are scheduled for elimination). According to Lacktman and Goodman, these codes will remain in place through the end of 2021, and they represent an effort by CMS to gradually expand telehealth coverage as it looks for evidence to support them.

“The reason for this unique approach is because CMS believes these codes have promise to be added on a permanent basis, but require additional data, real-world use experience, and feedback from stakeholders before CMS can make a final determination,” they wrote. “CMS will not remove these codes concurrent with the PHE expiration because it wants to give the public an extra opportunity to gather data and submit requests to CMS, asking CMS to add some of these codes to the Medicare telehealth services list on a permanent basis.”

“In short, Category 3 services are those likely to provide clinical benefit when furnished via telehealth, but for which there is not yet sufficient clinical evidence to evaluate making them permanent under existing Category 1 or Category 2 criteria,” Lacktman and Goodman added. “For a Category 3 service to become permanent, stakeholders will need to submit to CMS: 1) a description of relevant clinical studies that demonstrate the service, when furnished via telehealth, improves the diagnosis or treatment of an illness or injury, or improves the functioning of a malformed body part (including dates and findings of those studies); and 2) a list and copies of published peer reviewed articles relevant to the service when furnished via telehealth.”