Medicare Coverage of Telemental Health and the End of the PHE

The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), currently scheduled for April 19, will affect the continuation — or expiration — of temporary Medicare flexibilities, including the  expansion of telehealth. During the pandemic, Medicare beneficiaries have had access to a wide range of telehealth services, including telemental health, and uptake has increased substantially. Unfortunately, once the PHE ends, the authority for these flexibilities will no longer be in effect, meaning that many beneficiaries will lose access to services. Federal action to temporarily extend the current telehealth waivers would allow policymakers time to study whether they should make permanent changes regarding telemental health care coverage.

Medicare Coverage of Telemental Health

At the beginning of the pandemic, Congress temporarily authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to waive all statutory requirements governing Medicare coverage of telehealth, including telemental health care, as a means of rapidly responding to the pandemic. CMS then implemented several telehealth flexibilities, including:

  • allowing beneficiaries to receive telehealth services in all settings, including their homes
  • increasing provider reimbursement for telehealth
  • providing coverage for audio-only telehealth services
  • increasing the range of services eligible for telehealth coverage
  • expanding the type of providers who can furnish telehealth (including clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists)

Read the full article from the Commonwealth Fund.


About Telehealth and Telemedicine

What’s the difference between Telehealth and Telemedicine? Telehealth uses electronic information and telecommunication to support and promote long distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration. Telemedicine is health care delivered virtually. It’s the interaction between a patient and a clinician via telecommunication to support diagnosis, treatment, or disease prevention. Examples of what services are provided • Video conferencing ◊ Real-time, two-way interaction that supports health care services • “Store and forward” ◊ Digital images, pictures, video, or text that was recorded and stored before being sent • Remote patient monitoring (RPM) ◊ Health and medical data, such as blood glucose or blood pressure. Technologies need different levels of intervention by patient and doctor. Data can be sent as needed or on a predetermined schedule. • Mobile health (mHealth) ◊ Using mobile devices, tablets, or phones to send health care information • Doctor’s appointment using telecommunication • Primary care and specialist teleconsultation • Telediagnosis and treatment plan • Telepsych/behavioral assessment • Follow-up appointment • Medication management • Management of chronic conditions Insurance Coverage COVID-19 legislation has now temporarily mandated coverage in all states. For more information on virtual health care, visit

National Consortium Of Telehealth Resource Centers


Planning for a Successful Telehealth Visit


Just in… Telehealth Tips From Family Organizations (Spanish version available here)

Technology Provides Options for Medical Care from a Distance

Telebehavioral Health: An Effective Alternative to In-Person Care

The Three Ps – Plan, Prepare, Participate – of Telehealth

Tips You May Not Know to Improve Telehealth for Patients and Providers