Major New Benefits in Medicare Advantage May Help People Stay in their Homes Longer

This did not get much media coverage at all but:

The Trump Administration and a bipartisan majority in Congress have moved to allow Medicare Advantage managed care plans to offer a wide range of personal services such as home delivered meals, transportation, and bathroom grab bars—to members who need them. This would be a sea change in the way Medicare has supported older adults with chronic conditions for the past half century. And it has set off a firestorm of controversy.

Of the 61 million people enrolled in Medicare last year, 20 million have opted for Medicare Advantage, a privately run alternative to the traditional government program. Nationally, consumers interested in Advantage programs can choose from an average 21 plans, most offered through a handful of large insurers. Advantage plans limit members to a network of providers. Similar restrictions may apply to the new benefits. Per the New York Times:

When Medicare’s open enrollment period begins on Oct. 15, the private insurers that underwrite Advantage plans — which already lure seniors with things traditional Medicare can’t cover, like eyeglasses, hearing aids and gym memberships — will be free to add a long list of new benefits.

Among those the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will now allow, if they’re deemed health-related: Adult day care programs. Home aides to help with activities of daily living, like bathing and dressing. Palliative care at home for some patients. Home safety devices and modifications like grab bars and wheelchair ramps. Transportation to medical appointments.

“This will potentially help people stay in their homes longer and not have to go to institutions,” Seema Verma, the C.M.S. administrator, said in an interview. “You could provide a simple device or a home modification that could mean the world to a patient, but plans weren’t allowed to do that in the past.”

In 2020, thanks to Congress, the list of possible benefits could expand still further.

These additional Advantage benefits are the “the biggest expansion of Medicare benefits since Congress approved the Part D drug program 15 years ago.”

Under the new initiatives, Medicare Advantage plans will for the first time have the option of providing these extra services. However, they still will not be available through traditional fee-for-service Medicare. . .