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Medicare in $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill – Effect on LCSWs - 12-21-22

December 21, 2022 10:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Congress just passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill which has some impact on LCSWs through Medicare coverage. Now it is up to the President to sign it. Here are the ways that our practices will be affected if all these changes take place on January 1, 2023:

  • Medicare Rates – We had anticipated a 4.5% cut to Medicare reimbursement in 2023 and instead, this cut was 2%. It is better than expected. We will continue to advocate for a change to the RVU that determines what LCSWs are paid through Medicare, which is currently 25% less than what psychologists and psychiatrists are reimbursed for the same psychotherapy codes we use.
  • Telemental Health Extension – Coverage of telemental health was supposed to end 151 days after the end of the Public Health Emergency. There is a new extension of telemental health (and all health care) until Dec. 31, 2024. This is a positive development which increases the likelihood that telemental health will be made permanent.
  • Practicing Across State Lines – There is a provision that ends the requirement that providers be licensed in the same state as the patient receiving care, allowing more types of practitioners to provide telemental health services, including audio-only services.  This change is one that CSWA has been advocating strongly for and hopes will remain in place.
  • Delay In-Person Requirement – There is a delay in the requirement to see patients in-person via telehealth. The previous requirement had been that patients would have to be seen 6 months or 12 months every year in-person. For the foreseeable future, there is no need to see patients in person that are being seen virtually.
  • Telemental Health Services in FQHCs and RHCs - The bill would also extend telemental health services through 2024 for federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics.

This two-year extension is not without future implications. The bill instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to study how telehealth has affected Medicare beneficiaries’ overall health outcomes and whether there are geographic differences in use. It also calls for a review of medical claims data. The initial report is due by Oct. 1, 2024. 

One more item – the Good Faith Estimate is supposed to be given to patients every year so look at when you gave your patients their first GFE and prepare to repeat the process.

Please let me know if you have any questions about these changes.

Laura Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice

UPDATE: The rule addressing working across state lines is for LCSWs who are Medicare paneled and working with Medicare beneficiaries. This does not apply to LCSWs who are opted out, or not opted in or out. The rule does not apply to commercial insurers. 

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