Since CMS proposed expanding supplemental benefits for Medicare Advantage for the 2020 plan year at the end of January, several industry groups have voiced their support, seeing opportunities to improve care for individuals with chronic illnesses and lower costs.
The proposal allows MA plans––which are private health insurers that contract with Medicare to provide all healthcare services under original Medicare––more flexibility to design benefits centered around specific chronic conditions. CMS previously expanded supplemental benefits for the 2019 plan year to include services such as in-home care, which can keep older adults out of acute care settings and improve health and wellness.
The new expansion, if finalized, would enable plans to cover more benefits that directly address social determinants of health, such as home modifications, transportation and meals. For people with chronic conditions, addressing these issues can prevent or delay more serious health events. The benefits would also extend to those affected by opioid addiction seeking treatment.
“Meeting the needs of patients with chronic disease requires a team-based approach to care,” president and CEO of the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), Jerry Penso, MD, MBA, said in a statement following the proposal. “This also may include services that traditionally were not thought of as healthcare-related, including ones that deal with socioeconomic barriers to care. That is why AMGA is supportive of CMS’ effort to provide flexibility in how Medicare Advantage plans in order to help support the total needs of a patient by, for instance, ensuring their nutrition and transportation needs are met.”
The expanded benefits could help attract more Medicare beneficiaries to MA plans if plans include them in their 2020 bids. Over the next several years, MA enrollment is expected to significantly rise. In 2019, enrollment is anticipated to reach an all-time high of 22.6 million, or 36.7 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, according to CMS.
With this in mind, Matt Eyles, president and CEO of association group America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), is taking a close look at the proposal and its potential impact.
“We appreciate the ongoing bipartisan commitment from both Congress and the Administration to protect the Medicare Advantage program — ensuring its long-term stability, so that it can continue to improve seniors’ access to quality, affordable health care that meets their individual needs,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to review the advance rate notice carefully and look forward to participating in the comment period.”
Better Medicare Alliance, which advocates for MA through healthcare policy and research, also plans to comment on the proposal and voiced stronger support for the expansion of the supplemental benefits to people with chronic illness and those affected by opioid addiction.
“We are encouraged by CMS’ proposals to allow Medicare Advantage plans and providers greater flexibility to meet the needs of chronically ill beneficiaries with the expansion of supplemental benefits,” BMA President and CEO Allyson Y. Schwartz said in a statement. “Evidence has shown that beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage experience lower rates of opioid use. CMS’ proposals will build on this success by increasing access to effective treatments for opioid addiction and promote non-opioid therapies available in Medicare Advantage.”