Medicare

Medicare

Academy Requests CMS Exercise Its Regulatory Authority to Allow Coverage of Audiology Services Via Telehealth

In a letter to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), the Academy requests that the Agency exercise the full extent of its regulatory authority to allow Medicare beneficiaries to access audiology services via telehealth.

Telehealth and Medicare/Medicaid

Medicare regulations do not currently recognize audiologists as eligible providers of telemedicine services. The Academy has long advocated to change this, and we are currently working with congressional leaders to seek inclusion of such a change in legislation moving forward to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Message from the Academy Executive Committee

Message from the Academy Executive Committee

(March 22, 2020)

Work Together, Stay Informed, and Help Flatten the Curve

The message from the CDC and from your state and local governments is clear: The goal in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic at present is to flatten the curve. This means that containment of the COVID-19 virus is not possible, as you are aware from news reports. Without a vaccine or treatment, the only way to manage this with the health-care resources in the United States is to spread the number of infected people over time (flattening the curve).

This spreading out allows our health systems the bandwidth to care for ill people. In other words, if everyone is ill at the same time, more people will die because there is no way to provide enough care. If this same number of people are ill but enter the health-care system at different points over an extended period of time, the health-care system can more effectively manage care and many more people will survive.

The only way to flatten the curve is to practice social, or rather physical, distancing; literally to keep people physically away from each other. To this end, all “non-essential” businesses are being asked to “close.” Although this must happen no matter where a region is in terms of the virus, the sooner an area does this the better the result in terms of decreasing new cases of the virus and slowing the spread.


Many feel the concept of “non-essential” and “closed” are difficult depending on what you do and how you feel about what you do. Most people feel their business is essential for one reason or another. An “essential” business is defined as “life-sustaining.” This could be a hospital or a grocery store and will include businesses that supply groceries and resources for hospitals. There are other examples, but you get the idea. This means that without these businesses, lives would most likely be lost. “Closing” means closing your doors—not seeing anyone in person. It does not mean cutting off support from your customers/patients. The only way to flatten the curve is to stop people from interacting in person and one way to cut down on person-to-person contact is to close the doors of non-essential businesses.

Is providing support to individuals so they can hear and stay connected to loved ones during this time, access news reports and other important information, and support the hearing devices that may be worn by essential personnel (physicians, law enforcement, etc.) essential? Absolutely. However, the current need to keep people from face-to-face encounters requires that these services be provided creatively, using technology that allows physical distancing.

Audiology practices are “non-essential” in terms of the life-sustaining definition. We need to close our physical doors, so individuals do not come in person. As the CDC recommends, we need to all behave as if we already have this virus. We need to stay away from everyone and keep them away from us. But at the same time, we need to support our patients and provide the very essential care that promotes and supports communication. We must be innovative and figure out how to do this virtually. Some of you already do this and for others, you’ll need to gear up immediately. Virtual care can be as simple as making sure you update your website and signage on your door, so people know how to reach you by phone.

You can provide a tremendous amount of care virtually including trouble shooting non-functioning devices or suggesting amplification apps used with headphones that could help until a person can see you again. Perhaps mailing simple amplifiers to individuals in assisted living or skilled nursing whose hearing aids may not be functioning to help them communicate. You may have a first responder whose hearing aid is lost or damaged; you can manage this replacement without ever seeing this person at a time like this, it just takes some creativity.

The most important thing we can do to protect our patients right now is shut our physical doors and support them through telehealth mechanisms. I do not mean to imply this is easy or that this doesn’t have a tremendous cost to our practices. It does, but we must do no harm and we must be part of the solution that flattens this curve.

The Academy is engaged with Congress at this time requesting inclusion of reimbursement coverage of audiologists in the COVID-19 relief legislation. The Academy also has supported the language to include health-care providers in the small business loan proposals that are going before Congress. The staff and Academy leadership will be relentless in seeking legislative and regulatory solutions to support our members in private practice and other practice settings.

We must all work together to stay informed and seek innovations in practice during this time as we support the public health measures being recommended by the CDC and our local, state and national governments. For additional information, you may want to visit the Academy’s website for COVID-19 Clinical Recommendationsarticles on telehealth, including the Tele-audiology toolkit, and other COVID-19 resources

Stay at a distance, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face—the best advice the CDC can give at this time. Be well.

Sincerely,

Catherine Palmer, PhD, Academy President
Angela Shoup, PhD, Academy President-Elect
Lisa Christensen, AuD, Academy Past President
American Academy of Audiology Executive Committee

Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs)

Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs)

Important note: These resources are not specific to tele-audiology. The information contained in each resource may not be applicable to you in all cases. Please contact your regional or state Telehealth Resource Center (TRC) with individual questions. 


National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (NCTRC)

The National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers (NCTRC) is an affiliation of the 14 Telehealth Resource Centers funded individually through cooperative agreements from the Health Resources & Services Administration, Office for the Advancement of Telehealth.

The goal of the NCTRC is to increase the consistency, efficiency, and impact of federally funded telehealth technical assistance services.

Website: https://telehealthresourcecenter.org

Telehealth and COVID-19 Webinar (Recorded on March 19, 2020)
 

 


Regional Telehealth Resource Centers

Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) have been established to provide assistance, education and information to organizations and individuals who are actively providing or interested in providing health care at a distance. Our simple charter from the Office for Advancement of Telehealth is to assist in expanding the availability of health care to underserved populations. And because we are federally funded, the assistance we provide is generally free of charge.

Find your TRC.


California Telehealth Resource Center (Serving California)

Website: http://www.caltrc.org
Phone: (877) 590-8144 

Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center (NRTRC)

Serving Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Alaska
*The state of Utah is covered by both the NRTRC and the SWTRC, regardless of location

Website: https://nrtrc.org
Phone: (833) 747-0643

Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center (gpTRAC)

Serving North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska
Website: https://gptrac.org
Phone: (888) 239-7092

Southwest Telehealth Resource Center (SWTRC)

Serving Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah
*The state of Utah is covered by both the NRTRC and the SWTRC, regardless of location

Website: http://www.southwesttrc.org
Phone: (877) 535-6166

Heartland Telehealth Resource Center (HTRC)

Serving Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma
Website: http://www.heartlandtrc.org
Phone: (877) 643-4872

TexLa Telehealth Resource Center

Serving Texas and Louisiana
Website: http://www.texlatrc.org
Phone: (877) 391-0487

South Central Telehealth Resource Center (SCTRC)

Serving Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee
Website: http://learntelehealth.org
Phone: (855) 664-3450 

Southeastern Telehealth Resource Center (SETRC)

Serving Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida
Website: http://www.setrc.us
Phone: (888) 738-7210

Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center (MATRC)

Serving Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington DC and New Jersey
*The state of New Jersey is covered by both NETRC and MATRC, regardless of location

Website: http://www.matrc.org
Phone: (434) 906-4960

NorthEast Telehealth Resource Center (NETRC)

Serving New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont)
*The state of New Jersey is covered by both NETRC and MATRC, regardless of location

Website: http://www.netrc.org
Phone: (800) 379-2021

Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center (UMTRC)

Serving Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio
Website: http://www.umtrc.org
Phone: (855) 283-3734

Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center

Serving Hawaii and Pacific Basin
Website: http://www.pbtrc.org
Phone: (808) 956-2897


 

Academy Collaborates with Other Allied Health-Care Associations to Mitigate Coronavirus Impact on Members and Patients

The Academy is working with other allied health professional associations to identify actionable strategies to mitigate the coronavirus situation impact on members. Across the board, allied health professional associations are sharing concerns about the impact the current situation may have on small business healthcare providers as well as potential shortages of protective equipment such as masks and sanitizing products.

COVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 Resources

HHS Extends Application Deadline for Financial Relief Medicaid Providers until August 28, 2020

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has extended the application deadline for Medicaid providers for Phase 2 financial relief distribution until August 28, 2020. HHS also plans to reopen the portal for certain Medicaid providers to receive funding under Phase 1 provisions for those unable to complete applications previously. Both groups will have until Friday, August 28, 2020 to apply. More information can be found on the HHS website.

Considerations in the Search for Transparent Face Coverings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Because of COVID-19 and broad mandates to wear face coverings, there are numerous local, state, and national conversations regarding communication access for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) in school, hospital, and public settings. Although there was an initial shortage and concerns about meeting global demands, we have witnessed, in a short period, rapid production of various types of masks and shields intended for use by either the public or health workers, including masks with clear (transparent) windows and face shields.

AHA, AMA, and ANA Urge Public to Wear Masks

The American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) released a public service announcement (PSA) today (July 31) urging the American public to take three simple steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash hands frequently. 

Coding and Reimbursement: Telehealth

In the era of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to use different methods of clinical service provision to protect our patients’ health while still addressing their hearing, tinnitus, and vestibular health-care needs. 

As audiology clinics increase their use of telehealth as a method for patient care, audiologists must understand how such changes also impact coding and billing. This article will discuss considerations and provide examples of billing and coding for telehealth services for audiologists.

President’s Message: Health-Care Changes and Tele-Audiology—Our Focus on the Future

National Audiology Associations Team Up to Request Removal of the Medicare Physician Order Requirement

 

 

COVID-19 Week in Review

See a recap of this week's news and resources. A new Academy update will be posted each Friday.


Practice Management Resources


Telehealth Resources

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice
August 6, 10:00 am-5:00 pm ET

Telehealth and Medicare/Medicaid

Below is a resource list with information on the provision of telehealth services. The Academy will post additional information as it comes available.

Toolkits and Resource Centers


Treatment and Management Considerations

Ototoxicity, Medications, and Supplements


Government Resources


Public Awareness and Educational Resources


Communication Access Resources 

Mental Health


Resources for Students

Academy Comments to CMS Highlight Disproportionate Impact of Expected 2021 Medicare Payment Reductions on Audiology

The Academy submitted a letter  to CMS to supplement related comments submitted collectively with other physician and non-physician provider groups about the impact of the expected 2021 reimbursement reductions. The Academy letter highlights some of the nuances of these planned reductions in relation to providing audiological care. 

Academy Comments to CMS Highlight Disproportionate Impact of Expected 2021 Medicare Payment Reductions on Audiology

The Academy submitted a letter  to CMS to supplement related comments submitted collectively with other physician and non-physician provider groups about the impact of the expected 2021 reimbursement reductions. The Academy letter highlights some of the nuances of these planned reductions in relation to providing audiological care. 

Advocacy 2019: Year in Review

This Year in Review details how the American Academy of Audiology mobilized its legislative, regulatory, and political resources to advocate for audiologists on critical issues facing the profession.

Academy Weighs In on Eliminating Medicare Regulations that Exceed State Scope of Practice Laws and Limit Non-Physician Providers from Practicing at the Top of Their License

The Academy submitted comments in response to a Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) request for information on identifying burdensome Medicare regulations that exceed state scope of practice laws and limit non-physician providers from practicing at the top of their license.