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Medicare Watch

Medicare Watch articles are featured in a weekly newsletter that helps readers stay up-to-date on Medicare policy and advocacy developments, and learn about changes in Medicare benefits and rules.

What You Need to Know About Coronavirus and Medicare Coverage

As the number of cases of COVID-19 (also called coronavirus) increases, so does the importance of programs like Medicare in helping older adults, people with disabilities, and their families build and maintain their health and economic security. Accordingly, policymakers are taking critical steps to ensure program preparedness, keep beneficiaries and the public informed, and facilitate timely access to appropriate care.

Read More »

CMS Releases Temporary Policy Changes to Expanded Medicare Telehealth Services

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently took several steps to further expand the availability of Medicare telehealth services during the coronavirus emergency. Last week, the agency announced several temporary policy changes, and released an updated version of its coronavirus-related blanket waiver guidance that reflects these developments. According to CMS, the revisions are intended to “increase access to telehealth for Medicare patients so they can get care from their physicians and other clinicians while staying safely at home.” Notably, these flexibilities are in addition to those previously made by Congress and CMS, including via the CARES Act and the federal rulemaking process. Below is a summary of key changes.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

What You Need to Know About Coronavirus and Medicare Coverage

As the number of cases of COVID-19 (also called coronavirus) increases, so does the importance of programs like Medicare in helping older adults, people with disabilities, and their families build and maintain their health and economic security. Accordingly, policymakers are taking critical steps to ensure program preparedness, keep beneficiaries and the public informed, and facilitate timely access to appropriate care.

CMS Releases Temporary Policy Changes to Expanded Medicare Telehealth Services

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently took several steps to further expand the availability of Medicare telehealth services during the coronavirus emergency. Last week, the agency announced several temporary policy changes, and released an updated version of its coronavirus-related blanket waiver guidance that reflects these developments. According to CMS, the revisions are intended to “increase access to telehealth for Medicare patients so they can get care from their physicians and other clinicians while staying safely at home.” Notably, these flexibilities are in addition to those previously made by Congress and CMS, including via the CARES Act and the federal rulemaking process. Below is a summary of key changes.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.