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More and Better Medicare Advantage Plans on the Horizon

Recently Washington, D.C. hinted that changes to Medicare are coming. Medicare is the federal health program for people 65 and older.

Medicare Advantage plans are becoming made available through private health insurers and include Medicare Part A, for hospital/catastrophic care, and Part B, doctor visits/routine medical care. They can address dental and vision insurance and prescription drug coverage. Currently, one in three Medicare beneficiaries out of a total of 19 million seniors has a Medicare Advantage plan. Between 2016 and 2017 enrollment in Medicare increased by approximately 1.4 million people.

The Chronic Care Act, one of the most welcome new acts affecting medical care for seniors, will boosts Medicare Advantage plans by adding more benefit flexibility for non-medical coverage — meaning items such as wheelchair ramps or grab bars for the bathroom. The act also makes more telehealth services available for seniors with Medicare Advantage.

Following the footsteps of the Chronic Care Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the expansion of the definition of “health-related” supplemental benefits in Medicare Advantage to include compensation for physical impairments, reduce avoidable ER visits and reduce the impact of health conditions or injuries. That means the supplemental benefits in Medicare Advantage would include “additional service that increase health and improve quality of life.”

This is exciting news as it means Medicare Advantage would be able to offer services such as aides to help with daily living activities; home modifications; and home delivered, medically appropriate meals that are currently limited to a small number of conditions. Aging at home is something that a great number of seniors would prefer as opposed to living in a nursing home facility. Aging at home also means lower costs for Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare Advantage plans have 77 percent enrollment in the 65 to 84 age group compared to 71 percent for original Medicare.

Currently, Congress and the Trump administration support Medicare Advantage. With such support it appears that healthcare for seniors is not going anywhere.

According to a Congressional Budget Office study, 41 percent of Medicare enrollees are expected to choose Medicare Advantage by 2027 — a figure that looks like it may keep growing.