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Julie Carter

Senior Federal Policy Associate

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.

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.

CMS Releases Coronavirus Guidance for Medicare Advantage and Part D Plans

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.

Supreme Court Likely to Hear Affordable Care Act Case This Year

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.

The Rise of Unexpected Medical Bills: Short-Term Plans and Surprise Billing

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society released new research this week verifying concerns that people who buy short-term insurance, also called short-term limited duration insurance or STLDI, a type of substandard health plan that has been promoted by the Trump administration, are at significant financial risk should they need to use that coverage.

Health Policy Choices at the State Level Have Huge Impact on Resident Access to Care

While coverage and access to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual marketplaces are rooted in federal law, both programs are also shaped by policy choices at the state level. These decisions can be influenced by state demographics, budgets, and ideologies or politics. The resulting laws and guidance can greatly affect whether older adults or people with disabilities have access to the care they need to live healthy, independent lives.

CMS Proposes to Curtail Deceptive Medicare Advantage Plans

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees the Medicare program, recently proposed a rule to help deter Medicare Advantage (MA) plans from deceptively targeting people who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. If the proposals go into effect, dual eligibles could face less confusion in plan selection and may be less likely to enroll in a plan that does not meet their needs.

Social Security Rule Change Would Harm Older Adults with Disabling Conditions

Last week, the Medicare Rights Center submitted comments in opposition to a proposed rule from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that would harm people with disabilities, especially people who are approaching age 65. The proposal would make the current problems in the SSA determination and review system even worse and put up additional barriers to people who already spend years trying to access the benefits they need because of their physical or mental conditions.

Block Grants Cut Medicaid and Put Millions at Risk

Today, the Trump administration released guidance to help states convert some of their federal Medicaid funding into a block grant. In exchange for accepting this capped funding, states will receive more power to cut care and restrict coverage.

This new structure, billed as a voluntary demonstration for states, can apply to funding for optional Medicaid populations: low-income adults under the age of 65 who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for the program. This includes adults in the Medicaid expansion population, though non-expansion states that voluntarily cover other adults—such as low-income parents with incomes above the traditional Medicaid threshold and adults with dependent children—may also participate.

Kaiser Family Foundation Compares Proposals Intended to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Last month, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released a series of charts that explain and compare various legislative proposals to lower prescription drug costs. Such proposals are in the limelight because many Americans identify drug pricing as a significant problem and support government action to address it. According to one KFF poll, high drug costs have kept 30% of Americans from taking their medicine as prescribed.