March 27, 2020

CARES Act Summary (HR 748) - Key Telehealth Provisions


On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (H.R.748), the third package in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  The CARES Act signals strong support for telehealth and recognition from Congress that expanding access to virtual care is critical to defeating COVID-19.

Below is a section by section summary of key telehealth provisions in the CARES Act.

Section Summary
Section 3212. Telehealth network and telehealth resource centers grant programs.

 

Reauthorizes the HRSA TRC Grant programs.
Section 3701. Health Savings Accounts for Telehealth Services

Allows a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA) to cover telehealth services prior to a patient reaching the deductible.

Section 3703. Expanding Medicare Telehealth Flexibilities Removes the COVID-19 Medicare telehealth waiver requirement that a provider must have seen the patient within the last 3 years.

Removes the definition of telehealth under the COVID-19 waiver as real-time audio/visual technology, providing the Secretary of HHS additional authority to give flexibility to providers to use audio-only telehealth.

Provides the Secretary with expanded authority to waive additional 1834(m) statutory restrictions on Medicare telehealth services.

Section 3704. Allowing Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics to Furnish Telehealth in Medicare

Allows Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics to serve as a distant site for telehealth during the COVID-19 emergency period.

Section 3705. Expanding Medicare Telehealth for Home Dialysis Patients

Eliminate a requirement during the COVID-19 emergency period that a nephrologist conduct some of the required periodic evaluations of a patient on home dialysis face-to-face.

Section 3706. Allowing for the Use of Telehealth during the Hospice Care Recertification Process in Medicare

Allows qualified providers to use telehealth technologies in order to fulfill the hospice face-to-face recertification requirement during the COVID-19 emergency period.

Section 3707. Encouraging the Use of Telecommunications Systems for Home Health Services in Medicare Requires the Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue clarifying guidance encouraging the use of telecommunications systems, including remote patient monitoring, to furnish home health services consistent with the beneficiary care plan during the COVID-19 emergency period.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

SALARIES AND EXPENSES

Provides $200 million for the Federal Communications Commission to support the efforts of health care providers to address coronavirus by providing telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE

INDIAN HEALTH SERVICES FUND

$1.032 billion for Indian Health Services for medical and equipment supplies; mobile triage units; surveillance; medicines; purchased and referred care; transportation; back-filling for public health service corps; and increased capacity for telehealth and other teleworking capacity.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY

PUBLIC HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES EMERGENCY FUND

$27 billion for the HHS Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or  internationally, including the development of necessary countermeasures and vaccines, prioritizing platform-based technologies with U.S.-based manufacturing capabilities, the purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, necessary medical supplies, as well as medical surge capacity, addressing blood supply chain, workforce modernization, telehealth access and infrastructure, initial advanced manufacturing…

* “eligible health care providers’’ means public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, and such for-profit entities and not-for-profit entities not otherwise described in this proviso as the Secretary may specify, within the United States (including territories), that provide diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with possible or actual cases.

Health Resources and Services Administration

$180 million for Health Resources and Services Administration to carry out telehealth and rural health activities.

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)

MEDICAL SERVICES

$14.4 billions to support increased demand for healthcare services at VA facilities and through telehealth, including the purchase of medical equipment and supplies, testing kits, and personal protective equipment.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

$2.15 billion to support increased telework, telehealth, and call center capabilities to deliver healthcare services directly related to coronavirus and mitigate the risk of virus transmission including the purchasing of devices, as well as enhanced system bandwidth and support.

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA) 

TELEMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR ISOLATED VETERANS

Authorizes VA to expand mental health services delivered via telehealth and enter into short-term agreements with telecommunication companies to provide veterans with temporary broadband services.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)

MODIFICATIONS TO VETERAN DIRECTED CARE PROGRAM

Temporarily waives the in-person home visit requirement to enroll and permits telephone and telehealth visits as an alternative. Prohibits suspension or disenrollment from the program during a public health emergency.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)

TELEHEALTH FOR CASE MANAGERS AND HOMELESS VETERANS

Ensures telehealth capabilities are available for case managers and homeless veterans participating in the HUD–VASH program.