Medicare Advantage (MA) benefits will be expanding in 2020. This will be the second consecutive year that the Centers For Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS), will be increasing benefits to its subscribers. The expanded benefits include home meal deliveries, transportation services, and even some housecleaning.
Indeed, with these new policies, MA plans in 2020 will cover a broad range of supplemental benefits that aren’t typically considered health needs. But, in broader terms, these new benefits can reasonably improve or maintain health and quality of life.
Medicare Advantage: The Expanded Benefits
Last year, in 2019, CMS expanded the MA benefits to cover such items as shower grips, wheelchair ramps and other modifications to the homes of beneficiaries who had fallen or had other mobility issues. Those mobility issues had to be medically related.
But now, going forward into 2020, the new benefits can go beyond medical services to help beneficiaries with chronic diseases and give health plans the ability to innovate. For example, if someone has asthma, getting their carpet cleaned might keep them out of the hospital.
According to Seema Verma, the head of CMS, “It really is a significant change to the program in the sense that this is the first time we’ve allowed these private health plans to have this level of flexibility” This flexibility allows for tailoring the MA plans to further help participants.
Medicare Advantage: What Is it?
MA plans are private insurance plans that Medicare beneficiaries can choose instead of the original Medicare. The main differences between MA and original Medicare are that MA plans have networks of doctors that participants must use. This plan is a one-stop shop — meaning it covers hospital care, doctor visits, and prescription drugs. In addition, it also includes dental, vision and hearing.
Under original Medicare, beneficiaries have an unrestricted choice of doctors and hospitals that accept Medicare. Original Medicare beneficiaries can buy separate plans for prescription drugs (Part D) and supplemental policies to cover some deductibles and co-pays.
Currently, Medicare cannot provide these supplemental services, Verma said, as Congress did not issue authority. In the future, there might be some pilot programs in the future in which original Medicare would offer such benefits. Indeed, enrollment in MA plans has been steadily increasing. Ms. Verma said she expects that this benefit expansion will also lead to more Medicare beneficiaries choosing MA plans.
Medicare Advantage: Sign Up For The New Benefits
Beneficiaries can sign up for plans that offer these new benefits during this fall’s open enrollment period. Participants can navigate among the choices by using the CMS plan-finder tool. This will help them decide which plans to choose.
Right now, it’s too early to know whether MA plans that offer these extra services will charge higher premiums. MA plan rates typically are not announced until the fall.