The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in an interim final rule with comment period that it has changed Medicare payment rules to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic to expand the provision of telehealth services. Among the changes is an altered payment policy for specimen collection fees for independent labs paid for collection from homebound and non-hospital inpatient beneficiaries, as well as an expansion of the destinations for which ambulance services are covered. There are two changes to the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) program, including a three-month extension to year five of the program that results in an end date of March 31, 2021, rather than Dec. 31, 2020. The other change to the CJR program deals with the extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy, which will be applied to episodes affected by the pandemic despite that the policy is not explicitly applicable to the COVID-19 outbreak. Other provisions of the interim final rule address considerations such as frequency limitations on subsequent care services for patients in inpatient and skilled nursing facility settings, remote physiologic monitoring, and telephone evaluation and management services.

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