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The Commonwealth Fund Considers Which Pandemic-Related Medicare Changes Should Continue

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The Commonwealth Fund recently released a new report suggesting four key questions for policymakers to consider as they evaluate the future of more than 200 temporary policy and regulatory changes that have been made to the Medicare program as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report, which aims to track and categorize the regulatory changes along with proposing a framework for deciding which should be preserved, is a helpful overview of the current state of Medicare regulation and possibilities for the future.

The report catalogues 27 changes that have been expanded or made permanent, two that have been terminated, and the general areas of impact. The authors call for continued study of the policy changes—to take advantage of the natural experiment of such breadth and scale—and to seek unique insights into how Medicare’s regulatory structures could be modified to improve beneficiary care. 

The Commonwealth Fund proposes four key questions:

  1. Who, between the federal government or Congress, has the authority to make the change permanent after the public health emergency ends?
  2. What are the key potential benefits and risks to beneficiary care and out-of-pocket spending?
  3. What are the key potential benefits and risks to inappropriate Medicare program spending?
  4. What are key policies that policymakers could implement to mitigate the potential risks?

As a model, the authors propose answers to these questions in the context of telehealth flexibilities.

Medicare Rights appreciates this effort to support policymaker decisions about the post-pandemic Medicare coverage landscape. We continue to recommend that any such process should be deliberate, follow the data, and prioritize health equity as well as beneficiary needs and preferences. Doing so would best ensure a system that works for all people with Medicare.

Read the full report.

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