Telehealth

NASW is advocating to ensure access to clinical social work services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medicare

The Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) on March 17 issued guidance that outlines how telehealth (including teletherapy) can be provided and reimbursed to provide mental health services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Under this guidance, licensed clinical social workers (CSWs) (once enrolled in Medicare) can:

  • Provide and be reimbursed for teletherapy to new or existing Medicare beneficiary clients. For Telehealth Visits, clients may be new. For E-visits, clients must be existing patients.
  • Provide and be reimbursed for teletherapy provided to clients when clients are in their home
  •  Utilize smartphones with video chat technologies such as Apple FaceTime and Skype to provide telehealth services for which Medicare reimburses, in addition to HIPAA-compliant video conferencing technology which was permissible prior to COVID-19.

Note that Internet-facing platforms such as TikTok or Facebook Live, or chat rooms like Slack, are still prohibited because they allow wide public access to the communication. See FAQs on HIPAA and Telehealth for information on acceptable apps.

The use of audio-only devices such as telephone landlines to provide services is not reimbursable by Medicare at this time. The CARES Act enacted on March 27 gives CMS the authority to waive the prohibition against the use of audio-only devices. NASW is advocating to urge CMS to exercise this authority. Some states do allow the use of audio-only devices for Medicaid and commercial plans.

Claims can be back dated to March 6.

The telehealth waiver will be effective until the public health emergency declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services ends.

Access NASW's March 23 webinar on Medicare Telehealth and COVID-19

For more details from CMS about the telehealth flexibilities now in place, go to:

Resources for Social Workers

Interstate Teletherapy

NASW is also advocating to ensure that licensed CSWs can provide teletherapy to individuals, such as college students, who may have moved out of state temporarily due to the pandemic. Numerous states have implemented temporary flexibilities in regulation that will enable licensed CSWs can provide services across state lines. We are collaborating with the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) in providing information to clinical social workers about temporary licensure and waivers during states of emergency. Please see the section below for more information about waivers and other policy actions.

From the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is the membership association for state social work licensing authorities. ASWB monitors state legislative and regulatory actions that impact the regulation of the social work profession. ASWB also maintains a database of information on state social work licensing requirements. ASWB has compiled resources to help social workers understand regulations impacting social work teletherapy as well as license exemptions and temporary license requirements applicable during a declared state of emergency.

For more information, access ASWB regulatory reports at aswb.org. To access requirements for regulated licenses, see Detailed Reports: Compare license information.

For more information regarding social work teletherapy, temporary license provisions and license exemptions use Detailed Reports: Compare Jurisdiction Information. Select the state(s) of interest, and the report sections “Statutory Provisions” and “License Exemption Language.”

Access a report to generate direct links to the statutes and regulations impacting social work in a particular state, or to contact a licensing authority directly.

See ASWB's Regulatory provisions for social work emergency responders and COVID-19 policy actions for a table showing state-by-state COVID-19 related licensing and telehealth actions.

Professional Liability Coverage

Your NASW RRG professional liability policy provides coverage for teletherapy as long as it is an accepted practice conducted according to the individual practitioner's state regulations, state licensing board requirements, and HIPAA privacy standards which vary by state and are continually evolving. Find out more at naswassurance.org.




News Release

$2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package Will Support Social Workers, Clients They Serve


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