In response to efforts by organized medicine, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they will be increasing payments for audio-only telephone visits between Medicare beneficiaries and their physicians to match payments for similar office and outpatient visits. This would increase payments for these services from a range of about $14-$41 to about $46-$110, and the payments are retroactive to March 1, 2020.
This is a major victory for medicine that will enable physicians to care for their patients, especially their elderly patients with chronic conditions who may not have access to audio-visual technology or high speed Internet.
The American Medical Association and the Federation also worked with Senator Hyde-Smith (R-MS), along with Senators Shaheen (D-NH), Manchin (D-WV), and Moran (R-KS), to spearhead the attached letter to HHS Secretary Azar and CMS Administrator Verma on the same topic. The letter sent on April 29 had 37 signers and included the following requests:
1. Increase Medicare payment rates for telephone-based evaluation and management (E/M) codes (99441-99443) to bring payments for these codes equal to Medicare’s established in person visit codes (99212-99214) that will ensure that patients without advanced video-sharing capabilities are able to get care virtually, while helping to sustain physician practices.
2. Immediately provide guidance to Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to ensure that recent CMS guidance and rules are followed appropriately to enable the payment of telephone E/M claims.
3. Provide Members of Congress with a briefing on CMS efforts to address this issue by May 8, 2020.