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Use of Communication Technology-Based Services During Coronavirus/COVID-19

Updated June 4, 2020

In response to the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now allows more qualified nonphysician health care professionals, including SLPs, to report communication technology-based services (CTBS), such as e-visits, virtual check-ins, and telephone assessments, for Medicare Part B (outpatient) beneficiaries. CMS has not provided guidance regarding use of these codes in hospital outpatient or other facility-based settings.

Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) and Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) CTBS codes allow clinicians to report and receive payment for brief, virtual communications that require a clinical decision. Before the public health emergency, audiologists, SLPs, and most other nonphysician groups could not bill Medicare for these services. Medicare also now allows audiologists and SLPs to provide some telepractice services during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is important to note that CTBS codes are not considered telepractice services under Medicare’s definition. Here are the key things you need to know.

On this page:

Payer Coverage

State Medicaid programs and commercial plans may allow audiologists and SLPs to use CTBS codes, but aren't required to. 

The information on this page outlines Medicare Part B guidance and policy for individual providers. State Medicaid agencies and commercial insurance plans have the flexibility to develop their own coverage policies for CTBS codes. Check with your non-Medicare payers to ask about coverage and payment for these services by audiologists or SLPs. You can review ASHA's state-by-state Medicaid and emergency order [PDF] and commercial insurance [PDF] tracking resources for a listing of payers and Medicaid programs that have expanded telepractice services, which may include CTBS codes, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CMS confirmed that audiologists may not bill for CTBS codes to the Medicare program.

ASHA reached out to CMS to determine whether audiologists may report these services for Medicare beneficiaries and strongly urged that CMS provide equal access to these codes for audiologists. However, in subsequent communications with ASHA, CMS staff confirmed that audiologists may not report these services for Medicare beneficiaries, noting that CTBS codes describe services outside of the audiology diagnostic benefit category. Check with other non-Medicare payers to determine whether they will cover CTBS codes reported by audiologists.

Coding Guidelines

The CTBS codes describe specific virtual or telephone communications that require a clinical decision and must meet specific criteria for appropriate reporting. (updated 4/22/20)

The CPT and HCPCS codes for communication technology-based services represent brief communication services conducted over different types of technology to help avoid unnecessary office visits and slow the spread of COVID-19. They do not replace full evaluation and treatment services covered under the Medicare benefit and described by existing CPT codes. CTBS codes are limited in scope and reflect brief, patient-initiated check-ins or consultations that require clinical decision-making. Do not report these codes for services you would normally report using CPT codes, such as 92523 for a comprehensive speech and language evaluation.

During this public health emergency, clinicians can use platforms that are not compliant with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as long as they are not public facing.

All communication technology-based services addressed here must be:

  • patient-initiated;
  • medically necessary (requires clinical decision-making and is not for administrative or scheduling purposes); and
  • provided with patient consent.

Although the patient must initiate services via communication technologies, you can notify them that these services are now available and authorized by Medicare. The patient must consent to these services at least once annually. You or your administrative staff can obtain verbal consent and notify the patient of applicable co-pay and deductible costs at the same time you provide the service. Be sure to document that you received the verbal or written consent.

CMS also confirmed that these services may be provided to both new and established patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. An established patient has received services within the past three years from you or another clinician from the same specialty who works in the same group practice. Clinicians should consider state practice acts or other local laws and regulations before initiating services with new patients. Clinicians may be required to evaluate new patients before providing clinical recommendations or treatment.

E-Visits (HCPCS Codes G2061-G2063)

E-visits were the first set of CTBS codes CMS allowed SLPs to report during the COVID-19 pandemic. They describe brief, online assessments that are reported for cumulative time spent over the course of up to 7 days. 

  • G2061: Qualified non-physician healthcare professional online assessment and management, for an established patient, for up to seven days, cumulative time during the 7 days; 5–10 minutes
  • G2062: Qualified non-physician healthcare professional online assessment and management service, for an established patient, for up to seven days, cumulative time during the 7 days; 11–20 minutes
  • G2063: Qualified non-physician qualified healthcare professional assessment and management service, for an established patient, for up to seven days, cumulative time during the 7 days; 21 or more minutes

Note: Medicare uses HCPCS codes G2061-G2063 for e-visits, but other payers may require the corresponding CPT codes (98970-98972) instead.

To correctly use G2061-G2063, you should:

  • Conduct e-visits through a patient portal. Other forms of real-time or digital communications, such as e-mails outside of a portal or text messages, are not billable with these codes. CMS provides no additional guidance regarding the definition of a patient portal. Clinicians should check with their local MACs directly to verify whether there is flexibility to provide these services without a patient portal.
  • Store the exchange and document the medical necessity, your clinical decision-making and recommendations, and the amount of cumulative time spent providing e-visit services to each patient.
  • Report an e-visit code only once per 7 consecutive days. Select the appropriate G-code based on the cumulative time spent providing e-visit services to each patient, through a patient portal, over the course of the 7 days. Day 1 of the 7 days begins on the first date you provide an e-visit. Telephone calls do not count toward the time for e-visits.
  • Review ASHA’s clinical scenarios describing examples of services that could be reported with G2061-G2063.

Do not bill G2061-G2063 if the e-visit:

  • is related to another evaluation or treatment service provided within the last 7 days; or
  • leads to an evaluation or treatment service within the next 24 hours or at the next available appointment.

G2061-G2063 are not separately billable to Medicare or the patient under these circumstances because they are bundled into the associated services.

Remote Evaluation of Patient Videos/Images (HCPCS Code G2010)

CMS extended use of HCPCS code G2010 to SLPs in its interim final rule, effective March 1, 2020. It allows clinicians to bill for remote review of prerecorded images and videos from the patient.

G2010: Remote evaluation of recorded video and/or images submitted by an established patient (e.g., store and forward), including interpretation with follow-up with the patient within 24 business hours, not originating from a related evaluation and management service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an evaluation and management service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment 

To correctly use G2010, you should:

  • Review prerecorded images or videos sent asynchronously by the patient. This code should not be reported for real-time review and discussion of images or video over an audiovisual platform.
  • Follow-up with the patient within 24 business hours to provide clinical recommendations based on your review and interpretation of the images or videos. Follow-up does not have to be asynchronous and can be done through other modes of communication, such as an email, phone call, or patient portal.
  • Store the images/videos and document medical necessity, your interpretation of the images/videos and clinical recommendations, and that follow-up occurred within the required 24 business hours.

Do not bill G2010 if the review of images or video:

  • is related to another evaluation or treatment service provided within the last 7 days; or
  • leads to an evaluation or treatment service within the next 24 hours or at the next available appointment.

G2010 is not separately billable to Medicare or the patient under these circumstances because it is bundled into the associated services.

Virtual Check-Ins (HCPCS Code G2012)

CMS also extended use of virtual check-ins to SLPs in its interim final rule, effective March 1, 2020. HCPCS code G2012 describes brief communications initiated by the patient to help determine whether they need to be seen for a full evaluation or treatment service.

G2012: Brief communication technology-based service, e.g. virtual check-in, by a physician or other qualified health care professional who can report evaluation and management services, provided to an established patient, not originating from a related evaluation and management service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an evaluation and management service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion

To correctly use G2012, you should:

  • Participate in real-time discussion with the patient. Unlike G2010, services reported with G2012 should be synchronous. There are various ways this can be done, including through a phone, other audiovisual technology, secure text messaging, or a patient portal.
  • Store the exchange, if available, and document the medical necessity, your clinical decision-making and recommendations, and the amount of time spent participating in the virtual check-in.

Do not bill G2012 if the virtual check-in:

  • takes less than 5 minutes;
  • is related to another evaluation or treatment service provided within the last 7 days; or
  • leads to an evaluation or treatment service within the next 24 hours or at the next available appointment.

G2012 is not separately billable to Medicare or the patient under these circumstances because it is bundled into the associated services.

Telephone Assessment and Management (CPT Codes 98966-98968)

CMS also made telephone assessments available to SLPs in its interim final rule, effective March 1, 2020. These can be used for lengthier discussions to address more complex or emergent issues identified by the patient or caregiver or when the patient does not have access to other modes of communication technology, such as a patient portal. Although these codes represent lengthier interactions, they should not fully replace a face-to-face visit (whether in-person or via telepractice).

  • CPT 98966: Telephone assessment and management service provided by a qualified nonphysician health care professional to an established patient, parent, or guardian not originating from a related assessment and management service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an assessment and management service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion
  • CPT 98967: Telephone assessment and management service provided by a qualified nonphysician health care professional to an established patient, parent, or guardian not originating from a related assessment and management service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an assessment and management service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 11-20 minutes of medical discussion
  • CPT 98968: Telephone assessment and management service provided by a qualified nonphysician health care professional to an established patient, parent, or guardian not originating from a related assessment and management service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an assessment and management service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 21-30 minutes of medical discussion

To correctly use 98966-98968, you should:

  • Determine whether other CTBS codes may better reflect your services. The telephone assessment codes should be reported when the patient has no access to other modes of communication or if the nature of the problem requires a lengthier discussion with the patient or caregiver.
  • Participate in real-time, audio-only discussion with the patient and/or caregiver. This is the only set of CTBS codes that allows payment when discussion occurs with a caregiver without the patient present.
  • Document the medical necessity, your clinical decision-making and recommendations, and the amount of time spent participating in the telephone assessment and management service.

Do not bill 98966-98968 if the telephone discussion:

  • takes less than5 minutes;
  • is related to another evaluation or treatment service provided within the last seven days; or
  • leads to an evaluation or treatment service within the next 24 hours or at the next available appointment.

 98966-98968 are not separately billable to Medicare or the patient under these circumstances because it is bundled into the associated services.

Billing Tips

Append the modifier -GN to indicate services provided by an SLP.

CMS will consider these CTBS codes as “sometimes therapy” codes for the duration of the public emergency. As a result, SLPs should include the GN modifier on claims for CTBS codes. To append the GN modifier, place it in the "modifier" section of the claim, on the same line as the CTBS code. 

Use the place of service (POS) code that reflects the location of the billing provider.

When entering a POS code on a claim to describe where services occurred, clinicians should use the code that reflects where you provided the service, not where the patient received the service. If a clinician provides the service from their own home, enter the POS code to reflect where you normally would have provided the service.  For example, if a clinician would have provided the service from their private practice, enter POS 11 for “office”. Do not enter POS 12 for the patient’s home or the clinician's home. 

Medicare Part B (outpatient) pays for these services through the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS).

The following table lists the national Medicare Part B payment rates for the CTBS codes. Actual rates will vary slightly depending on your locality. CTBS codes are subject to Medicare’s 20% coinsurance payment from the patient. The MPFS does not deduct this amount, so the actual payment by Medicare is 20% less than outlined below. You must make reasonable efforts to collect the 20% coinsurance from the Medicare beneficiary.

2020 MPFS Payment Rates

Code Descriptor National Payment Rate ($)
G2010 Remote evaluation of recorded video and/or images submitted by an established patient (e.g., store and forward), including interpretation with follow-up with the patient within 24 business hours, not originating from a related evaluation and management service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an evaluation and management service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment   $12.61
G2012 Brief communication technology-based service, e.g. virtual check-in, by a physician or other qualified health care professional who can report evaluation and management services, provided to an established patient, not originating from a related evaluation and management service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an evaluation and management service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion  $14.78
G2061 Qualified non-physician healthcare professional online assessment and management, for an established patient, for up to seven days, cumulative time during the 7 days; 5–10 minutes  $12.27
G2062      11-20 minutes  $21.65
G2063     21 or more minutes $33.92
98966  Telephone assessment and management service provided by a qualified nonphysician health care professional to an established patient, parent, or guardian not originating from a related assessment and management service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an assessment and management service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion  $14.06
98967      11-20 minutes of medical discussion $27.39
98968      21-30 minutes of medical discussion $40.36 

Resources

ASHA provides the information on this page based on published guidance from CMS and discussions with CMS staff. Contact your local MAC for specific information and guidance related to implementation and payment for communication technology-based services.

Contact reimbursement@asha.org for additional information. Monitor ASHA’s website for the latest developments related to Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurance coverage of telepractice services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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