Medicare Advantage plans would be authorized to make greater use of telehealth services under a new regulation to be proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The proposal, part of a broader regulation addressing a variety of Medicare programs, would authorize wider use of telehealth services in caring for Medicare Advantage enrollees while improving provider payments for those services.

According to a CMS fact sheet about the proposed regulation,

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 allows MA plans to offer “additional telehealth benefits” not otherwise available in Original Medicare to enrollees starting in plan year 2020. Under this proposal, MA plans will have broader flexibility than is currently available in how they pay for coverage of telehealth benefits to meet the needs of their enrollees. In addition, we solicit comment on how to implement the statutory provision that if an MA plan covers a Part B service as an additional telehealth benefit, then the MA plan must also provide the enrollee access to such service through an in-person visit.

The Original Medicare telehealth benefit is narrowly defined and includes restrictions on where beneficiaries receiving care via telehealth can be located. CMS believes that the additional telehealth benefits in MA will increase access to patient-centered care by giving enrollees more control to determine when, where, and how they access benefits. The proposed rule would give MA plans more flexibility to offer telehealth benefits to all their enrollees, whether they live in rural or urban areas. It would also allow greater ability for Medicare Advantage enrollees to receive telehealth from places including their homes, rather than requiring them to go to a health care facility to receive telehealth services. Plans would also have greater flexibility to offer clinically-appropriate telehealth benefits that are not otherwise available to Medicare beneficiaries. 

Learn more about the proposed regulation, which will officially be published on November 1, by going here to see a CMS fact sheet and here to see the proposed regulation itself.