The objective of this study was to analyze new telehealth benefits offered by Medicare Advantage (MA) plans in 2020 and examine plan characteristics associated with the provision of the new telehealth benefits.
Using publicly available data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, we identified unique MA plans with at least 1 enrollee in January 2020. We examined whether plans offered any new telehealth benefits in 2020, the 20 most common types of telehealth services covered, and cost-sharing. Next, we used multivariable logistic regression to identify associations between offering any telehealth benefits and plan characteristics. We conducted a similar analysis for each of the 3 most commonly covered telehealth services.
Of 2992 unique MA plans, 58.1% offered new telehealth benefits in 2020. The most frequently covered services were primary care, mental health, and urgent care. Coverage for other types of services was limited. Our multivariable logistic regression showed that offering any new telehealth benefits was not more common among plans in rural areas, but was more likely among national plans, those with a monthly premium, those with >3540 enrollees, and those with a star rating of 4.0–4.5. The new telehealth benefits were less likely to be provided by for-profit plans. Overall, findings remained similar when analyzed according to the type of services.
MA plans are embracing new telehealth benefits, but there is room for improvement. Policymakers should consider how to accelerate the adoption curve of telehealth in MA plans.