Medicare Updates Made Easy

Happy New Year to you!  There are many changes with the new year, but some of the most important changes happened in Medicare benefits.These include both technological and cost improvements.

 Here are 5 important updates to take note of:

1. The "donut hole," is a coverage gap commonly created by high prescription costs to pay more for medicine after they reach a certain level of spending in one year. Optimistically, the spending bill Congress passed in March will close the donut hole for brand-name drugs in 2019. The gap will close for generic drugs in 2020.

2. The "Therapy cap," is also history. This means that beneficiaries of original Medicare won’t have to pay the full cost of outpatient physical,speech or occupational therapy thanks to Congress' permanent repeal of the capthat limited coverage in the past for such services.

3. Updates to the handbook are being made to include a checklist and graphics making the decision process more simplified. An online Medicare Plan Finder tool, called "coverage wizard," will provide an easy comparison of out-of-pocket expenses and options between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage.

4. Telehealth programs are broadening, making it easier for patients to confer with their doctor or nurse by phone or internet. Thus, these services will now be included for people with end-stage renal disease or during treatment for a stroke.

5. Medicare Advantage plans will offer lifestyle support, in-home assistance, and test drives.

— Lifestyle support will include options to cover home meals delivered to the home,transportation to the doctor’s office and even safety features in the home such as bathroom grab bars and wheelchair ramps.

— In-home help, means, there will now be options to pay for assistance from home health aides, who can help beneficiaries with their daily activities including dressing, eating, and personal care. Note that such revisions represent a broader definition of the traditional requirements that Medicare services must be primarily health-related.

— Lastly, new regulations, plan test drives, will let people try an Advantage plan for upto three months. At this point, they can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or choose to enroll in original Medicare.

Stay informed and be prepared for your health needs this coming year. Doing this can improve your management of costs, stress relief, and overall happiness.

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