News: CMS includes mental healthcare in telehealth coverage

CDI Strategies - Volume 15, Issue 50

In it’s final rule for the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule, CMS expanded coverage for the use of telehealth technology to include the delivery of mental health services in underserved areas, HealthLeaders reported. In the final rule, CMS made an amendment to allow beneficiaries to receive care in their homes “for the purpose of diagnosis, valuation, or treatment of a mental health disorder.”

As part of the service, CMS is mandating that provider and patient must meet in person at least six months prior to replacing with virtual visit, and that an in-person exam must be conducted at least once every 12 months thereafter. CMS is also changing its definition of telehealth to include audio-only platforms for home-based telehealth visits for mental health services. This move follows a surge in telephone visits during the COVID-19 pandemic when patients were looking for easier ways to access care for dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

CMS emphasized that coverage for audio-only telehealth services is limited to mental healthcare services furnished by providers who use two-way audio-visual telehealth platforms, but whose patients are either unable to or don’t want to use that platform.

Additionally, CMS has clarified that mental health services can include treatment for substance use disorders.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by HealthLeaders.

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