Breaking News
February 16, 2019 - Neuroscientists show how the brain responds to texture
February 16, 2019 - Gilead Announces Topline Data From Phase 3 STELLAR-4 Study of Selonsertib in Compensated Cirrhosis (F4) Due to Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
February 16, 2019 - What Can I Do About Sweating? (for Teens)
February 16, 2019 - Companies navigate dementia conversations with older workers
February 16, 2019 - Newly developed stem cell technologies show promise for treating PD patients
February 16, 2019 - Collaborative material research could advance self-assembling nanomaterials
February 16, 2019 - Researchers take major step in creating technology that mimics the human brain
February 16, 2019 - Erasing memories associated with cocaine use reduces drug seeking behavior
February 16, 2019 - Artificial intelligence can accurately predict prognosis of ovarian cancer patients
February 16, 2019 - Racial disparities in cancer deaths on the decline for America
February 16, 2019 - FDA authorizes new interoperable insulin pump for children, adults with diabetes
February 16, 2019 - Coexisting Medical Conditions, Smoking Explain PTSD-CVD Link
February 16, 2019 - Skin Cancer Screening: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
February 16, 2019 - ‘Happiness’ exercises can boost mood in those recovering from substance use disorder
February 16, 2019 - Cell manipulation could soon halt or reverse aging
February 16, 2019 - Pumped Breast Milk Falls Short of Breastfed Version
February 16, 2019 - Men’s porn habits could fuel partners’ eating disorders, study suggests
February 16, 2019 - Rapid progression of age-related diseases may result from formation of vicious cycles
February 16, 2019 - Immune checkpoint molecule protects against future development of cancer
February 16, 2019 - New method produces hydrogels that have properties similar to cells’ environment
February 16, 2019 - $4.1 million funding for heart research on Valentine’s Day
February 16, 2019 - General anesthesia in early infancy unlikely to have lasting effects on developing brains
February 16, 2019 - New breakthroughs for muscular dystrophy research
February 16, 2019 - First Opinion: Embryo editing for higher IQ is a fantasy. Embryo profiling for it is almost here
February 16, 2019 - Vapers develop cancer-related gene deregulation as cigarette smokers
February 16, 2019 - Bringing Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (AST) to the Community
February 16, 2019 - Decolonization protocol after hospital discharge can prevent dangerous infections
February 16, 2019 - H-RT should be the standard of care for men with low risk prostate cancer, study shows
February 16, 2019 - New technique using patients’ own modified cells could help treat Crohn’s disease
February 16, 2019 - Therapeutic endoscopy has an expanding role in the treatment of IBD
February 16, 2019 - Blood clot discovery could lead to development of better treatments for blood diseases
February 16, 2019 - Intervention can increase exclusive breastfeeding rates
February 16, 2019 - New project explores how gaming technologies can help cancer patients communicate better
February 16, 2019 - Catalyst Biosciences Presents Updated Data from Its Phase 2/3 Trial of Subcutaneous Marzeptacog Alfa (Activated) in Individuals with Hemophilia A or B with Inhibitors at the 12th Annual EAHAD Congress
February 16, 2019 - Rerouting nerves during amputation reduces phantom limb pain before it starts
February 16, 2019 - A Hormone Produced When We Exercise Might Help Fight Alzheimer’s
February 16, 2019 - Millions of British people breathe toxic air travelling to GPs
February 16, 2019 - Conformance of genetic characteristics found to be crucial for longer preservation of kidney graft
February 16, 2019 - Researchers use optogenetic tool to control, visualize receptor signals in neural cells
February 16, 2019 - New reversible antiplatelet therapy could reduce risk of blood clots, prevent cancer metastasis
February 16, 2019 - Testosterone is not the only hormone needed for penis development
February 16, 2019 - FDA Advisory Committee Recommends Approval of Spravato (esketamine) Nasal Spray for Adults with Treatment-Resistant Depression
February 15, 2019 - Heart surgery technology developed at Baptist Health debuts after years of secrecy
February 15, 2019 - Prescription Opioids Double Risk of Triggering Fatal Car Crash
February 15, 2019 - New study helps doctors better understand high blood pressure in pregnant women
February 15, 2019 - Beta wave control in Parkinson’s diseased brain could be a potential therapy
February 15, 2019 - Media representations of love may justify gender-based violence in young people
February 15, 2019 - Yoga May Help With Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms, Severity
February 15, 2019 - Obstructive sleep apnea linked to inflammation, organ dysfunction
February 15, 2019 - Master your mind: A challenge from WELL for Life
February 15, 2019 - Why Some Brain Tumors Respond to Immunotherapy
February 15, 2019 - Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes
February 15, 2019 - Researchers uncover novel mechanism and potential new therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s
February 15, 2019 - Genetic variations in a fourth gene associated with higher ALL risk in Hispanic children
February 15, 2019 - Disruptive behavioral problems in kindergarten linked with lower employment earnings in adulthood
February 15, 2019 - New bioengineered device enhances the production of T-cells
February 15, 2019 - HDL proteome behaves like a tiny Velcro ball that is rolling on surfaces
February 15, 2019 - Puerto Rican children more likely to have poor or decreasing use of asthma inhalers
February 15, 2019 - Quality of patient care does not improve after physician-hospital integration
February 15, 2019 - Synopsys release new software for implant design and patient-specific planning
February 15, 2019 - 6 out of 10 hip replacements last 25 years or longer
February 15, 2019 - Health Tip: What You Should Know About Antibiotics
February 15, 2019 - New research challenges medical consensus that adenoids and tonsils significantly shrink during teenage years
February 15, 2019 - Discovery of weakness in a rare cancer could be exploited with drugs
February 15, 2019 - UVA scientists find potential explanation for mysterious cell death in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s
February 15, 2019 - New rules requiring female athletes to lower testosterone levels are based on flawed data
February 15, 2019 - Researchers comprehensively sequence the human immune system
February 15, 2019 - Researchers study animal venoms to identify new medicines for treating diseases
February 15, 2019 - Movement of wrist bones revealed by MRI and computer modeling
February 15, 2019 - Philips introduces new premium digital X-ray room to help shorten patient wait times
February 15, 2019 - Women fare worse than men following aortic heart surgery, study finds
February 15, 2019 - High-protein and low-calorie diet helps older adults lose weight safely, shows study
February 15, 2019 - Drug microdosing effects may not measure up to big expectations
February 15, 2019 - Discharged, Dismissed: ERs Often Miss Chance To Set Overdose Survivors On ‘Better Path’
February 15, 2019 - A digitized lab environment to be showcased at smartLAB 2019
February 15, 2019 - Scientists uncover main mechanisms of fluconazole drug resistance
February 15, 2019 - New study seeks to understand how colibactin causes cancer
February 15, 2019 - Photoacoustic imaging accurately measures the temperature of deep tissues
February 15, 2019 - Large study finds no association between phthalate exposure and breast cancer risk
February 15, 2019 - New research explains presence of ‘natural’ magnetism in human cells
Trumpeted new Medicare Advantage benefits will be hard for seniors to find

Trumpeted new Medicare Advantage benefits will be hard for seniors to find

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

For some older adults, private Medicare Advantage plans next year will offer a host of new benefits, such as transportation to medical appointments, home-delivered meals, wheelchair ramps, bathroom grab bars or air conditioners for asthma sufferers.

But the new benefits will not be widely available, and they won’t be easy to find.

Of the 3,700 plans across the country next year, only 273 in 21 states will offer at least one. About 7 percent of Advantage members — 1.5 million people — will have access, Medicare officials estimate.

That means even for the savviest shoppers it will be a challenge to figure out which plans offer the new benefits and who qualifies for them.

Medicare officials have touted the expansion as historic and an innovative way to keep seniors healthy and independent. Despite that enthusiasm, a full listing of the new services is not available on the web-based “Medicare Plan Finder,” the government tool used by beneficiaries, counselors and insurance agents to sort through dozens of plan options.

Even if people sign up for those plans, they won’t all be eligible for all the benefits. Advantage members will need a recommendation from a health care provider in the plan’s network. Then they may need to have a certain chronic health problem, a recent hospitalization or meet other eligibility requirements.

Medicare counselors from California to Maine say key details are not included on the government’s website. In some cases, if insurers offer the new benefits, the plan finder “will indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” said Georgia Gerdes a health care choices specialist at AgeOptions, the Area Agency on Aging in Oak Park, Ill., outside Chicago. That’s hardly enough, she said.

“There is a lot of information on the plan finder, but there is a lot of information missing that requires beneficiaries to do more research,” said Deb McFarland, Medicare services program supervisor at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.

Nonetheless, officials say the added benefits will help Advantage members prevent costly hospitalizations. Federal approval of additional benefits is “one of the most significant changes made to the Medicare program,” Seema Verma, the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told an insurers’ meeting last month. She said she expects plans to expand services in coming years.

Medicare Advantage plans, which are an alternative to traditional Medicare, serve 21 million beneficiaries and limit their out-of-pocket expenses. But they also restrict members to a network of doctors, hospitals and other medical providers. They often offer benefits not available in traditional Medicare, such as dental and vision care, hearing aids and gym memberships.

The federal government pays a set amount to the plans to help cover the cost of each member. The Trump administration gave insurers money to spend on benefits next year — an average pay raise of 3.4 percent, seven times more than the rate of increase in 2018.

Enrollment is underway for Medicare Advantage plans, as well as for people in traditional Medicare who want to buy a policy for drug coverage. The deadline for choosing either type of plan is Dec. 7.

Among the new benefits that some Medicare Advantage plans said they will offer are:

  • Trips to the pharmacy or fitness center in addition to doctor’s appointments for plan members, depending on where they live or their health conditions.
  • A monthly or quarterly allowance for over-the-counter pharmacy products such as cold and allergy medications, eye drops, vitamins, supplements and compression stockings.
  • House calls by doctors or other health care providers, under certain conditions.
  • A home health care aide for a limited number of hours to help with dressing, eating and other daily activities, possibly including household chores and light housekeeping.

However, plans offering these and other services will likely have only some of the options and will have different eligibility criteria and other limitations. The same services likely won’t be available in every county the plan serves.

For example, next year an estimated 150,000 Humana Medicare Advantage members in Texas and South Florida — two of the 43 states Humana serves — who cannot be left alone at home will be able to get a free in-home personal care aide for up to 42 hours a year, so that their regular caregiver can get a break. And more than half of the members in Cigna-HealthSpring Advantage plans will have access to free transportation services in all but five of the 16 states and the District of Columbia where the company sells coverage.

To find these supplemental benefits, seniors can use the online plan finder. After they enter their ZIP code and get a list of plans available locally, they can click on a plan name. That will take them to another page that offers more details about coverage, including a tab for health and drug plan benefits. That page might say whether the new services are offered.

But often the website will simply indicate that specific benefits are available — and perhaps not name them — and advise consumers to contact the plan for more information. A Medicare spokesperson confirmed that there is currently not an indicator on the plan finder for plans offering these expanded health-related supplemental benefits.

In addition to extra benefits, other variables should be considered when choosing an Advantage plan, such as which health care providers and pharmacies participate in a plan’s network, which drugs are covered and the costs.

Where available, several insurers say the new services will be free with no increase in monthly premiums.

“We certainly believe that all of the ancillary benefits we provide will help keep our members healthy, which is good for them, and it’s good for us in the long run,” said Steve Warner, head of the Medicare Advantage product team at UnitedHealthcare, which insures about 5 million seniors or 1 in 4 Medicare Advantage members.

Insurers are betting that services will eventually pay for themselves.

Dawn Maroney, consumer president at Alignment Healthcare, which serves eight counties in Southern California, said it’s much cheaper to give an air conditioner to someone with congestive heart failure to keep that patient healthy than to pay for more expensive medical treatment.

But if the new benefits are such a good idea, they should be available to the majority of older adults in traditional Medicare, said David Lipschutz, a senior policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

For free help with Medicare Advantage and drug plan enrollment, contact the federally funded State Health Insurance Assistance Program (www.shiptacenter.org), the Medicare Rights Center, 800-333-4114 or its website, www.medicareinteractive.org. The Medicare Plan Finder website is available at https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx or call 800-633-4227.

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles