In a letter to Senate leaders on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner argued that rural health clinics and the approximately 269 federally qualified health centers in Colorado should be permitted to bill Medicare for telehealth services amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“Especially at this time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released crucial social distancing guidance, we must ensure that our most vulnerable be able to access telehealth services without limiting restrictions,” Gardner said in the letter to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
On March 16, the Trump Administration announced that Medicare would pay for its beneficiaries’ telemedicine visits at the same rate as in-person visits. The directive also waived some federal health privacy requirements and allowed doctors to use personal devices when providing remote care.
While Gardner supports the move, he explained in the letter that the telemedicine revisions did not apply to rural clinics and federally qualified health centers. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in its overview of federally qualified health centers, reports that “Although FQHC services are not subject to deductible, you must apply the deductible when an FQHC bills for the telehealth originating site facility fee.” An originating site is where the patient is during the telehealth visit.