Changes under a recent final rule encourage Medicare Advantage plans to increase their telehealth benefits and plan options for beneficiaries in rural areas. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services disclosed changes to the final rule last week. Under the rule, MA plans will have more flexibility to count telehealth providers in certain specialty areas, such as dermatology, psychiatry, cardiology, ophthalmology, nephrology, primary care, gynecology, endocrinology and infectious diseases toward meeting CMS network adequacy standards. 

The changes will encourage plans to enhance their benefits to give beneficiaries access to the latest telehealth technologies and increase plan choices for beneficiaries residing in rural areas, according to the agency. 

“CMS’s rapid changes to telehealth are a godsend to patients and providers and allows people to be treated in the safety of their home,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. “The changes we are making will help make telehealth more widely available in Medicare Advantage and are part of larger efforts to advance telehealth.”

In March, the federal government announced the removal of Medicare restrictions for telehealth coverage nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, CMS announced a new set of rules and waivers that allows therapy providers to offer their services through telehealth to Medicare patients.