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Monthly Archives: April 2020

Coronavirus Public Health Emergency Highlights the Need for Medicare Enrollment Protections

A new Associated Press (AP) story, “Medicare applications raise anxiety for seniors in pandemic,” highlights the challenges Medicare-eligible individuals may face when trying to enroll in the program during the coronavirus emergency. Their experiences, and those of callers to Medicare Rights’ national helpline, indicate the pandemic is exacerbating an already cumbersome process.

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Tenuous Financial Situation for Older Adults in 2019 Does Not Bode Well for Their Post-Coronavirus Security

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a report detailing how financially secure or insecure Medicare beneficiaries were in 2019. Consistent with previous years, the report shows that any stereotype of baby boomers as uniformly affluent is deeply misguided. Instead, half of people with Medicare have incomes below $29,650 and one in four live on less than $17,000. Savings rates are similarly dire. Half of Medicare beneficiaries have below $73,000 in resources, one in four has less than $8,300, and about 1 in 9 has no savings or is in debt. They also face significant out-of-pocket health care expenses in absolute terms and as a percentage of their income.

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Updated Guidance for Medicare Advantage and Part D Plans Increases Access to Care

Last month, the Medicare Rights Center highlighted guidance that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, Part D plans, and certain Medicare-Medicaid plans. This guidance described both the options and requirements such plans have for providing Medicare coverage for COVID-19 (also called coronavirus) testing, treatments, and prevention. This week, CMS amended the guidance to reflect additional information and flexibilities. Some of these changes are a result of legislation, while others are decisions made by the agency.

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Trustees Reports Reflect Largely Unchanged and Improved Projections

The Social Security and Medicare Trustees reports were released this week. The reports include short- and long-term projections for the financial situation of the Social Security Retirement and Disability and the Medicare HI (Part A) and SMI (Part B) trust funds. The findings are largely consistent with those from 2019 and confirm the Medicare and Social Security programs are strong and built to last.

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How Coronavirus Might Change Future Health Costs

The coronavirus public health emergency is likely to have a sweeping impact on the entire American health care system, including costs and affordability. This week, the Peterson Center on Healthcare and KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) released a brief discussing possible changes to health care costs, including within the Medicare and Medicaid programs, moving forward.

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CMS Temporarily Eases Some Requirements for Medicare Advantage and Part D Appeals

People with Medicare who are denied coverage for a health service or item by Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage (MA), or their Part D plan may appeal—or formally request a review of—that decision.

During the coronavirus public health emergency, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is allowing new flexibilities in how these appeals are managed. The temporary changes give the entities hearing or processing a beneficiary’s appeal the authority to remove barriers that might otherwise prevent a beneficiary from successfully filing or pursuing an appeal.

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Enrolling in Medicare During the Coronavirus Emergency

During the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus, Social Security Administration (SSA) offices across the country closed their physical doors and moved all operations to online and telephone platforms. SSA created a new resource page to keep the public updated and explain how to access services amid the office closures. Anything affecting access to SSA has an impact on people applying for Medicare coverage, as SSA is the agency that handles enrollment. Importantly, Medicare enrollment continues, though people may encounter some delays.

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CMS Releases Interim Final Rule for Medicare Policy During the Coronavirus Emergency Period

On April 6, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—the agency that oversees the Medicare program—published an interim final rule (IFR) with comment period, Policy and Regulatory Revisions in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The IFR reinterprets and clarifies several Medicare rules and policies for the duration of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency period, often to increase access to telehealth services. The rule is retroactive to March 1, and comments on the rule are due June 1.

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The CARES Act Provides Economic Stimulus and Health Care Changes

Last week, a third bill intended to address the coronavirus pandemic through economic stimulus and important financial and health safety provisions was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a massive legislative package that is likely to have some effect on all residents of the U.S., including people with Medicare and their families.

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