On Monday evening, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in an effort to support telehealth and boost health care services in rural areas.
The order will permanently expand some telehealth services beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said they are planning to issue a proposed Physician Fee Schedule rule.
The CMS officials explained that the rule would help strengthen some regulatory flexibilities sanctioned during the pandemic to reimburse for telehealth visits, including ER visits, nurse consultations, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
These telehealth services would greatly expand access to high-quality care, according to the officials.
It has been found that many Medicare patients have embraced telemedicine services. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 13,000 Medicare patients received telemedicine services. In the last week of April, when the pandemic was at its peak, more than 1.7 million Medicare patients received telehealth services, according to the CMS.
During a press conference on Monday evening, Trump said, “Today I’m taking action to ensure telehealth is here to stay. I signed executive order to make some of our regulatory reforms permanent.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, the CMS has enabled Medicare to cover over 135 telehealth services.
The CMS officials said, “A more sweeping extension of pandemic telehealth policies, including enabling patients to get telehealth visits at home, would require Congressional action.”
In order to support rural health care, Trump also signed an order to direct the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to effectuate a new payment model through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI).
“That payment model would provide hospitals in rural communities a more consistent stream of Medicare payments based on delivering high-quality care,” the president said.
“Revenue for rural providers varies significantly month to month, making it difficult to stay in business,” he added. “Many are having a difficult time.”
The executive order also directs the HHS and the Federal Communications Commission to form a task force that would focus on boosting broadband infrastructure in rural areas to support telemedicine. Furthermore, Trump said he would release a new health care plan before the end of this month.