NJHSA Applauds Administration, CMS for Approving Phone-Only Mental Health Coverage for Medicare Recipients

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May 1, 2020

The Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies applauds the administration and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services for expanding Medicare coverage for audio-only telephone services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including psychotherapy, health behavior assessment and intervention services, and other behavioral health services.

Previously, Medicare provided coverage for telehealth services only via videoconferencing, which was a significant limitation for clients without access or capability to use those technologies. Due to the stay at home orders and social distancing recommendations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, human service agencies must provide most of their mental health and other services remotely via telephone and video.

“A significant proportion of older adults and persons with disabilities who are Medicare beneficiaries do not have access to video technology or Internet, and this expansion now provides a critical lifeline to our clients, enabling them to access life-saving mental health treatment,” said Perry Ohren, Chair, NJHSA Board of Directors. “As this pandemic continues, we are seeing an increase in stress and mental illness in our client populations. This health care coverage now allows our members to serve clients more effectively now than ever before.”

“We are thankful to the administration for acknowledging the need for flexibility in Medicare coverage and proud of our advocacy efforts in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America and other advocates in the field to ensure that the needs of our agencies and the client populations they serve are met during this crisis,” said Reuben D. Rotman, NJHSA President and CEO.