Beginning in 2020, people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans who have chronic illnesses will be covered for certain supplies and services not previously covered. Examples include bathroom grab bars and wheelchair ramps; and services such as home meal delivery, at-home visits from personal assistants and pharmacists, and transportation to/from doctors’ visits. Medicare Advantage plans currently serve about one third of Medicare’s 60 million beneficiaries.
Those with chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s will benefit. The AARP reports that more than two thirds of current Medicare beneficiaries have multiple chronic conditions. These individuals account for 75% of all Medicare spending, according to Kenneth E. Thorpe, chairman of Emory University’s health policy department.
The new policy arises from the passage earlier this year of the CHRONIC Act (“Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care”). The law received bipartisan support. Its proponents anticipate that covering these services and supplies will result in better patient outcomes and save Medicare money in the long run.
The new law also expands coverage for telehealth services, in recognition that those with one or more chronic conditions often face obstacles to traveling for medical care and are often better off staying away from the doctor’s office if they have a compromised immune system. The new law will also expand telehealth services for anyone experiencing symptoms of stroke, covering the cost of a neurologist to remotely review CT scan images and recommend treatments, including the use of highly effective clot-busting drugs.
The Department of Health and Human Services is currently working out the details for the program.You can read the CHRONIC legislation here.