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  • Latest Relief Package: Unemployment Provisions

    The CARES Act signed into law on March 27 is aimed at providing relief in a wide range of areas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's what the package offers related to unemployment benefits.

    [Editor's note: APTA welcomes comments and questions posted to PT in Motion News stories, but we cannot answer individual questions about unemployment benefits. Please visit the links listed at the bottom of this story to find answers to your questions about current unemployment provisions.]

     The recently enacted CARES Act aimed at providing relief during the COVID-19 pandemic contains some important provisions related to unemployment that include relaxing some of the qualifications to receive benefits, allowing for circumstances specifically related to the pandemic, and adding $600 to weekly benefit checks.

    Called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, the new provisions allow for financial assistance to individuals who wouldn't ordinarily receive unemployment benefits, such as the self-employed, independent contractors, part-time workers, and those who have already finished their unemployment benefits. This new offering is effective January 27 through December 31, 2020.

    To receive the benefit, individuals in categories that normally wouldn't qualify for benefits must prove that they can no longer work due to activity related to COVID-19. Examples include:

    • Diagnosis of COVID-19, a COVID-19 diagnosis of a member of the household, or providing care for a member of the household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Primary caregiving responsibility for a family member who is unable to attend school or another facility that has been closed due to the national emergency.
    • Inability to work because of a quarantine imposed by the national emergency or self-quarantine advised by a health care provider.
    • Inability to begin recently gained employment or being forced to end employment as a direct result of the national emergency.

    In addition to the expanded range of individuals who may qualify for unemployment benefits, the program adds $600 per week to regular unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks. The additional money will be provided to everyone receiving unemployment benefits.

    Individuals able to telework or receive paid sick leave are ineligible for the program. If a state has a defined workshare program or short-time compensation, the CARES Act provides additional funding to keep employees working on a reduced-hours schedule and receive prorated unemployment benefits.

    For more information visit the U.S. Department of Labor website, which includes an unemployment benefits finder by state and information on unemployment insurance relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Aetna Now Covers Telehealth Delivered by PTs

    Aetna joins UnitedHealthcare among the commercial insurers that have expanded coverage from more limited e-visit provisions.

    UPDATE (April 3): Aetna has advised that telehealth services delivered by physical therapists may be billed on a UB04 using the modifier GT or 95. Please contact advocacy@apta.org with any issues or questions associated with this billing.

    Private insurer Aetna announced that it will now cover a range of services delivered by PTs through telehealth—a significant expansion of its earlier COVID-19-related policy that limited coverage to e-visits. The change comes after APTA engaged in collaborative work with the company to rethink its temporary benefits policy.

    The insurer, officially known as CVS Health/Aetna, will cover the telehealth-based delivery of the services and procedures by PTs for CPT codes 97161, 97162, 97163, 97164, 97110, 97112, 97116, 97535, 97755, 97760, and 97761. The telehealth care must be provided as a two-way synchronous (real-time) audiovisual service. Providers are required to append the GT modifier to the codes. Aetna's expansion follows a similar move by UnitedHealthcare.

    Aetna will also continue its policy that reimburses PTs for the provision of e-visits, virtual check-ins, and telephone services. The use of the GT or 95 modifier is not required for e-visit CPT codes (98970, 98971, 98972), the store-and-forward code (G2010), virtual check-in codes (G2012), and telephone assessment CPT codes (98966, 98967, 98968). Visit Aetna's provider website and follow instructions for accessing detailed policy information on the provider portal.

    Check out APTA’s frequently updated telehealth webpage for the latest information on payer and regulatory changes.