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Medicare Telehealth Coding as of April 30

Medicare Telehealth Coding as of April 30

Healthcare providers are granted even more latitude for use of telehealth services during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

On a Friday, at month-end, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) kindly dropped another bomb on us: more temporary policy changes during the public health emergency for COVID-19. We may have this all sorted out just when the PHE ends.

When attending CMS’ “House Calls” on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it has been clear that additional guidance and information, beyond what is found in the April 6 Interim Final Rule, is necessary. During the calls, the answers to many questions have been that the CMS staff know that the issue is still open and they will get back to us.

CMS addresses many of the open issues from these calls, which center around non-physician providers and telehealth services, in an April 30 press release. The press release states that these changes have come from “requests from providers as well as by the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.”

There are multiple goals to the telehealth changes addressed in the April 30 press release. Addressed here is the third goal, which is to “increase access to telehealth for Medicare patients so they can get care from their physicians and other clinicians while staying safely at home.”

Telehealth Coverage Updates

  • CMS is waiving limitations on the types of clinical practitioners who can furnish Medicare telehealth services for the duration of the COVID-19 PHE. Prior to this change, telehealth services were limited to doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and others who also qualified to furnish evaluation and management (E/M) services. Now, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists can bill for telehealth.

Note: It does not state this in the press release, but please keep in mind that providers are still limited to providing services within the scope of their state license. State scope of practice overrides any payers’ rules. This is important for both maintenance of the providers’ licenses and malpractice coverage.

  • Hospitals can bill for remote services provided by hospital-based providers to Medicare patients who are registered as hospital outpatients, including when the patient is in their home, when the home is serving as a temporary provider-based department of the hospital, which CMS refers to as Hospitals Without Walls. These services can include counseling and educational services and well as therapy services.
  • Hospitals can bill as the originating site for telehealth furnished by hospital-based practitioners to Medicare patients registered as hospital outpatients, including when the patient is located at home (Hospital Without Walls). The press release does not state what the originating site code should be, but G0463 has been discussed during CMS Office Hours.

Note: The hospital is paid a facility fee (originating site fee), and they should use hospital outpatient POS 22 since that is where the service would have normally been provided if the PHE did not exist, along with the 95 modifier to indicate that the service was provided via telehealth.

  • CMS added services that could be provided via audio-only telephone between patients and their doctors back on March 30, 2020. CMS is increasing the list of what services may be audio-only telephone to include many behavioral health and patient education services.
  • The telehealth code list was updated on April 30 to add a column to the spreadsheet which indicates: “Can Audio-only Interaction Meet the Requirements?” If there is a “Yes” in that column, you may bill that code when the practitioner used audio-only telephone.

Note: The “Covered Telehealth Services for PHE for the COVID-19 pandemic” is located at: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-General-Information/Telehealth/Telehealth-Codes.

Below is a snapshot of the spreadsheet. I have highlighted the new column (gray), which indicates if audio-only telephone interaction can be used. CPT® codes 97802, 97803, and 97804 allow for audio-only interaction. As you can see, there is no “Yes” in the highlighted column for 99201, 99202, and 99203. This means that an audio-video interaction must take place for office E/M services to be coded and billed to Medicare as a telehealth service.

Telehealth Code List

CMS added a new column to the code list to indicate codes that may be provided remotely via an audio-only device such as a telephone.

  • CMS is increasing the payment for telephone services (99441-99443) to better match payments for office visits. The payment rates will go from $14-$41 to about $46-$110. The payment rate change is retroactive to services performed on or after March 1, 2020.
  • CMS has been adding to its list of covered telehealth services using its rulemaking process, but will now add new telehealth services on a sub-regulatory basis. They will consider requests from providers as they learn about utilization of telehealth services more broadly and update the telehealth code list, as necessary. Check this list often! (The link is above.)
  • The CARES Act mandated that CMS expand telehealth services to rural health clinics and federally qualified health clinics (FQHCs). Now Medicare patients registered in these settings will have access to telehealth services from their home. CMS also issued an update on RHCs and FQHCs on April 30 during the PHE via MLN Matters article SE20016.

Because all of these changes have been published via a press release, these instructions are not as in-depth as in the rule making process. Expect CMS to refine the “how to” and clarify questions. One useful activity is to dial into the twice weekly “Office Hours” calls that CMS has on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5 pm ET. Check your MLN publications and emails for the phone number and pass code to dial into the calls.

See also:

Questions can be sent to CMS regarding COVID-19 coding and billing by emailing them at: COVID-19@CMS.HHS.GOV.

Source: April 30 CMS Press Release

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Barbara Cobuzzi

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Barbara J. Cobuzzi, MBA, CPC, COC, CENTC, CPC-P, CPC-I, CPCO, CMCS, is CEO of CRN Healthcare Solutions and formerly owned a medical billing company. Cobuzzi is a subject matter expert in otolaryngology coding. She provides litigation support as an expert witness for providers and payers and often presents for many local and national organizations. She is also a consulting editor for AAPC’s Otolaryngology Coding Alert newsletter. In 1999, Cobuzzi was named AAPC’s Networker of the Year, and she is a past member of the National Advisory Board. She is one of four founding members of the Monmouth/Ocean, N.J., local chapter and is still active with the chapter.

15 Responses to “Medicare Telehealth Coding as of April 30”

  1. Jodi Sadlowe says:

    CMS is increasing the payment for telephone services (99441-99443) to better match payments for office visits. The payment rates will go from $14-$41 to about $46-$110. The payment rate change is retroactive to services performed on or after March 1, 2020.

    Will all previously submitted claims need to be resubmitted to receive the reimbursement for the increased rate?

  2. J. Giles says:

    Since this is a retroactive to change, will there be a way to collect the extra reimbursement for claims that have already been billed?

  3. Renee Dustman says:

    Good question! Based on this transmittal, you will need to resubmit.


  4. Renee Dustman says:

    J. Giles: It looks like you will have to resubmit claims. https://www.cms.gov/files/document/r10039CP.pdf

  5. Elaine says:

    Has anyone found information for psychotherapy done via telephone only?
    Thank you!!!

  6. Darlene Henderson says:

    Are there any Covid-19 telehealth coding scenarios available for Duals and or Medicare?

  7. Renee Dustman says:


    There is some mention of psychotherapy in CMS-55341-IFC. For example, in the Partial Hospitalization Program, “… to the extent they were already billable as PHP services in accordance with existing coding requirements prior to the COVID-19 PHE–can now be furnished to beneficiaries by facility staff using [audio and video] telecommunications technology during the COVID-19 PHE: 1. individual psychotherapy; 2 patient education; and 3 group psychotherapy.”

    and in CMS-1744-IFC, group psychotherapy code 90853 is added to the list of telehealth services on a Category 2 basis during the PHE. On April 30, CMS updated the code list to say this code could be performed using audio-only interaction.

  8. Paula Garcia says:

    I am having problems with claims submitted to Medicare for March with CPT code 99443 and place of service 02 (telehealth), they got denied stating wrong place of service. Any suggestions?

  9. Renee Dustman says:

    Use modifier 95 and practitioner’s billing POS. Note: Not all MACs have their systems ready for this change so you may need to resubmit claims.

  10. Terri Jones says:

    CMS has added Annual Wellness Visits to the list of telehealth codes that can be performed audio only during COVID. How are these billed to Medicare since all other audio only visits have to be reported using the 99441-99443 CPT’s.

  11. Samia says:

    I would not add the 95 modifier to 99443 as this means audio and video. Please see description of modifier in CPT Professional edition 2020. 99443 is a telephone only code.

  12. Renee Dustman says:

    Samia, You are right that you would not normally append modifier 95 to 99443 because it is a telehealth code. However, it is not normally a Medicare-allowed code. During the PHE for COVID-19, Medicare is allowing payment for telephone codes, including audio only. When these telephone services are performed using non-traditional telehealth technology, thus you would not use POS 02, then you may append modifier 95 with the POS code that would’ve been billed had the encounter taken place face-to-face.

  13. Renee Dustman says:

    Use the appropriate AWV codes (such as diagnosis code V70.0; Initial Annual Wellness Visit G0438; Subsequent Annual Wellness Visit G0439), appended with modifier 95, and the POS code for where the visit would’ve occurred under normal circumstances.

  14. Genesy Morales says:

    Has anyone found information for psychotherapy done via telephone only? do we use the modifier 95 with the place of service (2)?

  15. Renee Dustman says:

    Report the code you would normally report. If the service isn’t usually conducted via telehealth, report modifier 95 and the office POS code to be paid the in-office rate. If the service is usually conducted via telehealth, report the telehealth code and POS 02.