On January 31, 2020, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of federal government agencies have since taken action to temporarily relax certain regulatory requirements that will allow healthcare providers and payors to address the COVID-19 emergency expeditiously and efficiently through the use of telehealth. Similar actions are also being taken at the state level. Below is a summary of the more significant measures that have been taken to promote the use of telehealth in combatting COVID-19 in the United States. These measures will be in effect for the duration of the public health emergency.
Waived Practitioner Licensure Requirements
On March 13, CMS announced a waiver of the requirement that healthcare practitioners providing telehealth services must be licensed in the state where the patient is located in order to obtain Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. As a result, a practitioner licensed in one state may now be paid by Medicare and Medicaid for a telehealth visit with a patient located in a different state.
CMS’s waiver is limited to reimbursement and does not waive long-standing state laws requiring those practicing medicine to be licensed in that state. However, states, including California and Florida, are beginning to waive in-state licensing requirements for healthcare practitioners licensed in other states who are assisting with COVID-19 response efforts.