On March 10, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance around the requirements and flexibilities Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, Part D plans, and certain Medicare-Medicaid plans have to help provide health care coverage to people with Medicare for coronavirus testing, treatments, and prevention. The guidance identifies what plan sponsors must do during a disaster or emergency as declared by their states, and also what the plans are permitted to do. Since the issuance of the guidance, some of the optional flexibilities have become mandatory due to passage of federal legislation.
Older adults and people with disabilities are at high risk of infection and serious illness from coronavirus. While we appreciate the efforts of policymakers to date to respond to the outbreak, more must be done to anticipate and meet the unique needs of people with Medicare. This week, Medicare Rights sent letters to Congress and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), outlining our priorities and recommendations for future action.
This week, Congress passed legislation (H.R. 6201) that waives all Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing for coronavirus testing and the associated doctor’s office visit.
The legislation contains a number of other provisions that also advance critical health care and fiscal priorities, including enhanced federal Medicaid funding for states, support for nutrition services, unemployment aid, and paid sick leave. The package is the second coronavirus bill to pass Congress. Earlier this month, Congress provided $8.3 billion in emergency appropriations to improve public health preparedness and response.
Medicare generally only covers telehealth in limited situations and for certain beneficiaries. However, recent legislation allows the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to temporarily expand telehealth coverage and access, in part by waiving some of Medicare’s rules, such as originating site and geographic restrictions, during the coronavirus public health emergency. On March 17, HHS released guidance, including a fact sheet and FAQs, implementing this policy and appropriately applying it to all Medicare-approved telehealth services.
At Medicare Rights, we understand this is a stressful time for many. The situation in our cities and towns is changing rapidly.
Amid this still-emerging crisis, we remain steadfastly committed to ensuring older adults, people with disabilities, and their families have meaningful access to high-quality, affordable health care. To deliver on that promise while keeping our employees and communities safe, Medicare Rights is temporarily moving to telework arrangements in our New York and Washington, D.C. offices.
This week, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health advanced the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (H.R. 2477). Next steps for the bill include consideration by the full Committee.
In an important decision that could impact the health care of millions of people, the Supreme Court decided this week that it will consider the latest Affordable Care Act (ACA) case in its next term. This decision to hear the case follows a January decision not to take a fast-track approach to the lawsuit. Though the timeline for the hearings has not been set, the court is likely to hear oral arguments this fall, possibly as early as October. A decision on the case would not be likely before 2021.
This week, as the number of COVID-19 (also called coronavirus) cases continues to grow across the U.S., policymakers in Washington D.C. took steps to ensure people with Medicare can safely access needed care.