CMS Administrator Seema Verma

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma hinted Tuesday that waivers permitting broader telehealth coverage will be extended after the coronavirus pandemic. 

“People recognize the value of this, so it seems like it would not be a good thing to force our beneficiaries to go back to in-person visits,” Verma said during a live virtual event with STAT News.

Earlier this month, the agency confirmed it was considering extending waivers on telehealth coverage beyond the coronavirus crisis. CMS, however, noted that an extension of the relaxed Medicare restrictions for telehealth coverage would require approval from Congress.

Verma echoed those comments while also noting that the government would have to assess whether it should continue equalizing payments for virtual and in-person visits. 

“Right now for the public health emergency, we’re maintaining that equilibrium. But going forward that’s something that needs to be looked at,” she told the news organization. “I don’t see it as a one-to-one. …I think there are some potential savings for the system that do occur by having a telehealth visit.”

In March, CMS announced that it removed Medicare restrictions for telehealth coverage nationwide and temporarily relaxed HIPAA obligations for providers in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That opened the door for doctors to connect with Medicare patients virtually instead of in person.

In May, the federal government gave therapy providers the green light to provide Medicare telehealth services to nursing home residents during the pandemic.