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Medicare Now Reimbursing for Audio-Only Psychotherapy

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is delighted that clinical social workers can now receive Medicare reimbursement for psychotherapy services provided via audio-only devices such as landlines during the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) public health emergency.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) yesterday announced these and other temporary rule changes and waivers to increase access to healthcare and mental health services for the millions of older adults who due to the pandemic cannot safely receive services in-person. The agency in March implemented numerous flexibilities to promote greater deployment of telehealth, including allowing health care providers such as clinical social workers to use smart phones with video chat apps to provide services, in addition to video conferencing platforms which were permissible pre-COVID-19.

NASW has been advocating vigorously for further expansion of this telehealth flexibility to include audio-only devices. Millions of Medicare beneficiaries, especially those in rural areas and those who have low incomes, do not have smart phones and/or reliable access to the internet. Some, due to their health or mental health conditions, are not able to use video chat apps.

“CSWs are the nation’s largest provider of mental and behavioral health services, and essential health care providers in this pandemic” said Angelo McClain, Chief Executive Officer of NASW. “With this new regulatory flexibility, our workforce now has another extremely valuable telecommunications tool at its disposal in meeting the urgent psychosocial needs of Americans who are older or living with a disability."

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.