Telemedicine and Telehealth

Delivering health care services using telecommunications or information technology.

COVID-19 Telehealth Emergency Declarations (updated 4/1/2020)

Under this new waiver, Medicare can pay for office, hospital, and other visits furnished via telehealth across the country and including in patient’s places of residence starting March 6, 2020.  A range of providers, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, will be able to offer telehealth to their patients. The telehealth waiver will be effective until the PHE declared by the Secretary of HHS on January 31, 2020 ends.

There are three main types of virtual services physicians and other professionals can provide to Medicare beneficiaries:  Medicare telehealth visits, virtual check-ins and e-visits. 

See our Medicare Telemedicine and Virtual/E-Visits Billing Guide for specifics on billing Medicare for these services.

1) Telehealth/Telemedicine Visits - Effective for services starting March 6, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Medicare will make payment for Medicare telehealth services furnished to patients in broader circumstances. 

Key points of this waiver are:

- These visits are considered the same as in-person visits and are paid at the same rate as regular, in-person visits (see coding note below). 
- Waive geographic restrictions, meaning patients can receive telehealth services in non-rural areas;
- Waive originating site restrictions, meaning patients can receive telehealth services in their home;
- Allow use of telephones that have audio and video capabilities; 
- Allow reimbursement for any telehealth covered code, even if unrelated to COVID-19 diagnosis, screening, or treatment;
- Not enforce the established relationship requirement that a patient see a provider within the last three years (therefore patient may be new or established).
- HHS will not impose penalties for noncompliance with HIPAA. Providers can use any non-public facing remote communication product that is available to communicate with patients. Applications that are non-public facing include but are not limited to Apple FaceTime, Facebook  Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype. Public facing applications like Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok, etc. are not allowed. Additional information can be found at this notice from Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Coding To receive payment at the same rate as in-person office visits, use the same place of service (POS) code that would have been reported had the service been furnished in person. The CPT telehealth modifier (modifier 95) should be used to indicate that the service was furnished via telehealth. Do not use the 02 POS unless you would like to still receive the facility rate. For example, a physician practicing in an office setting who sees patients via telehealth, instead of in person, would report POS-11-Office. Additionally, the telehealth modifier (modifier 95) should be applied to claim lines that describe services furnished via telehealth. CPT code selection (99201-99205, 99211-99215, etc.) does not require the elements of HPI, Exam, and Medical Decision Making, bu t can be based on total time of the visit (not just counseling or coordination of care) or medical decision making. See the Medicare Telemedicine and Virtual/E-Visits Billing Guide above for more information.

Removal of frequency limitations on Medicare telehealth
- Subsequent inpatient visits (CPT 99231-99233), subsequent skilled nursing visits (CPT 99307-99310), and critical care consult codes (CPT G0508-G0509) no longer have limitations on the number of times they can be billed.

Medicare physician supervision requirements - Physician supervision can be provided virtually using real-time audio/visual technology for services requiring direct supervision by a physician or other practitioner.

CMS has developed a toolkit with electronic links to reliable sources of information on telemedicine to help providers choose learn about the general concept of telehealth, choose telemedicine vendors, initiate a telemedicine program, monitor patients remotely, and develop documentation tools.

2) Virtual Check-Ins - In all areas (not just rural), new or established Medicare patients in their home may have a brief communication service with practitioners via a number of communication technology modalities including synchronous discussion over a telephone or exchange of information through video or image. The communication cannot be related to a medical visit within the previous 7 days and does not lead to a medical visit within the next 24 hours (or soonest appointment available). The patient must verbally consent to receive virtual check-in services. Find more information here

3) E-Visits - In all types of locations including the patient’s home, and in all areas (not just rural), Medicare patients may have non-face-to-face patient-initiated communications with their doctors without going to the doctor’s office by using online patient portals. Patients must generate the initial inquiry and communications can occur over a 7-day period. The services may be billed using CPT codes 99421-99423 and HCPCS codes G2061-G2063, as applicable. Find more information here

Telephone (audio only) codes - CMS will reimburse for telephone evaluation and management services provided by a physician (CPT 99441-99443) and telephone assessment and management services provided by a qualified nonphysician healthcare professional (CPT 98966-98968). These codes are available to new or established patients and may be furnished using audio-only devices.

Find additional information on Medicare telehealth waivers during COVID-19 here

Governor Greg Abbott waived certain regulations and directed that the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) issue an emergency rule, all relating to telemedicine care for patients with state-regulated insurance plans to help doctors across Texas continue to treat their patients while mitigating the spread of COVID-19. 

This waiver only applies to fully-funded plans (TDI or DOI will be on the insurance card):

- Pay in-network health professionals at least the same rate for telemedicine services as for in-person services, including covered mental health services. 
- Cover telemedicine services using any platform permitted by state law (with the same HIPAA flexibilities mentioned in the Medicare waiver above) including the telephone (audio only telephone must be initiated by the patient).
- May establish a physician-patient relationship by telephone.

For additional information please review the TMB FAQs Regarding Telemedicine During Texas Disaster Declaration for COVID-19 Pandemic.

- Effective March 20 through April 30, Medicaid, Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs), and Healthy Texas Women Program will pay for audio-only telephone consultations as authorized by TMB. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) said covered evaluation and management CPT codes are 99201-05 and 99211-15 and should be billed with the -95 modifier. Medicaid and Medicaid MCOs also will pay for certain behavioral services provided over the telephone.  Additionally, effective immediately, HHSC will pay federally qualified health centers as telemedicine and telehealth service distant site providers.  

Chronic Pain Patients - Governor Abbott approved TMB's request to temporarily suspend Title 22, Chapter 174.5 (e) (2)(A) of the Texas Administrative Code. This waiver allows telephone refill(s) of a valid prescription for treatment of chronic pain by a physician with an established chronic pain patient. Due to the seriousness of the opioid crisis and the need to ensure there is proper oversight of chronic pain management, this suspension is only in effect until April 10, 2020. This waiver follows the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announcement that healthcare professionals can prescribe controlled substances, including opioids, via telemedicine during the current coronavirus public health emergency.

Prompt Payment Extension - The prompt pay deadlines have been extended to allow an additional 15 days for timely claims payment. Read the bulletin for additional information. 

The Texas telemedicine waivers discussed above are specific to fully-insured plans (TDI or DOI on insurance card) and will dictate what plans are required to do during the COVID-19 crisis (despite what is stated on payer policy). Self-funded plans are not subject to the above waivers and will have separate telemedicine policy information outlined, please verify benefits for all self-funded plans. 

Special Coding Advice - AMA has developed these coding scenarios to assist in applying best coding practices during this public health crisis. 

Standard Telemedicine Information (non COVID-19 related)

Payer Policies

In general, most State telemedicine legislation only applies to fully-insured plans, thus coverage for telemedicine varies by plan and patients benefits. It is imperative to verify coverage prior to rendering telemedicine services. 

Standard Policy Notices:
Below are links to standard payer telemedicine policies outside of the COVID-19 crisis. The TMA has developed Telemedicine Payers Quick Reference Chart to further assist in identifying payer requirements. 

Telemedicine Vendors

After reviewing and understanding payer policies and ensuring you will receive proper payment for conducting telehealth services, below are resources to help identify a vendor that fits your needs. 

Rules & Legislation 

Please review our HCMS Telemedicine Rules & Legislation Fact Sheet for links to and a review of Texas telemedicine rules and laws. 

Note: The information provided on this factsheet does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only.  Information on this factsheet may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. 

Additional Resources

American Telemedicine Association (ATA)
The American Telemedicine Association has many resources, educational courses and events. The ATA is a non-profit association with a membership network of thousands of industry leaders and healthcare professionals.

Texas Medical Association (TMA)

American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)
Telehealth Connects Patients and Doctors in Real Time - A brief, November 2017.

American Medical Association (AMA)