CMS and CDC announce provider reimbursement available for counseling patients to self-isolate at time of COVID-19 testing

CDC and CMS announced Thursday that it will pay clinicians to counsel patients about the importance of self-isolation while awaiting results of testing for the novel coronavirus.

CDC and CMS announced Thursday that it will pay clinicians to counsel patients about the importance of self-isolation while awaiting results of testing for the novel coronavirus. According to CDC, its "models show that when individuals who are tested for the virus are separated from others and placed in quarantine, there can be up to an 86% reduction in the transmission of the virus compared to a 40% decrease in viral transmission if the person isolates after symptoms arise." CMS said it will use existing evaluation and management (E/M) payment codes to reimburse providers who are eligible to bill the agency for counseling services regardless of where a test is administered, including physician's offices, urgent care clinics, hospitals, and community drive-thru or pharmacy testing sites. These discussions with patients, at the time of their COVID-19 testing, will include the immediate need for isolation, even before results are available; the importance of informing their immediate household that they should also be tested; and the review of signs and symptoms and services available to them to aid in isolating at home. Additionally, patients will be counseled that if they test positive, they should wear a mask at all times and they will be contacted by public health authorities and asked to provide information for contract tracing. The CMS Counseling Checklist is available here.