OIG Report: Medicare Telehealth Services During the First Year of the Pandemic: Program Integrity Risks

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General released a report which describes

  • Providers’ billing for telehealth services; and
  • Identifies ways to safeguard Medicare from fraud, waste, and abuse related to telehealth.

The full report can be found here.

What OIG Found

OIG identified 1,714 providers whose billing for telehealth services during the first year of the pandemic poses a high risk to Medicare. These providers billed for telehealth services for about half a million beneficiaries. They received a total of $127.7 million in Medicare fee-for-service payments. Each of these 1,714 providers had concerning billing on at least 1 of 7 measures OIG developed that may indicate fraud, waste, or abuse of telehealth services. All of these providers warrant further scrutiny. For example, they may be billing for telehealth services that are not medically necessary or were never provided. In addition, more than half of the high-risk providers we identified are a part of a medical practice with at least one other provider whose billing poses a high risk to Medicare. This may indicate that certain practices are encouraging such billing among their associated providers. Further, 41 providers whose billing poses a high risk appear to be associated with telehealth companies; however, there is currently no systematic way to identify these companies in the Medicare data.


OIG recommends that CMS: (1) strengthen monitoring and targeted oversight of telehealth services, (2) provide additional education to providers on appropriate billing for telehealth services, (3) improve the transparency of “incident to” services when clinical staff primarily delivered the telehealth service, (4) identify telehealth companies that bill Medicare, and (5) follow up on the providers identified in this report. CMS concurred with our recommendation to follow up on the providers identified in this report, but CMS did not explicitly indicate whether it concurred with the other four recommendations.

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