Service area means a geographic area that for local MA plans is a county or multiple counties, and for MA regional plans is a region approved by CMS within which an MA-eligible individual may enroll in a particular MA plan offered by an MA organization. Facilities in which individuals are incarcerated are not included in the service area of an MA plan. Each MA plan must be available to all MA-eligible individuals within the plan's service area. In deciding whether to approve an MA plan's proposed service area, CMS considers the following criteria:
(1) For local MA plans:
(i) Whether the area meets the “county integrity rule” that a service area generally consists of a full county or counties.
(ii) However, CMS may approve a service area that includes only a portion of a county if it determines that the “partial county” area is necessary, nondiscriminatory, and in the best interests of the beneficiaries. CMS may also consider the extent to which the proposed service area mirrors service areas of existing commercial health care plans or MA plans offered by the organization.
(2) For all MA coordinated care plans, whether the contracting provider network meets the access and availability standards set forth in § 422.112. Although not all contracting providers must be located within the plan's service area, CMS must determine that all services covered under the plan are accessible from the service area.
(3) For MA regional plans, whether the service area consists of the entire region.