Sometime between now and year’s end, a new Medicare card will show up in your mailbox. Instead of your Social Security number, it will have a unique, 11-digit, randomly assigned Medical Beneficiary ID number to protect against identity theft. What’s more, that number will be good for not only Medicare, but also other programs, including Medicaid, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and Special Needs Plans (SNPs).
But while that new card is the first and most visible Medicare improvement, other new, more valuable changes, are less obvious. That’s because they give seniors with multiple or chronic medical issues new resources for aging in place.
On February 9, President Trump signed the CHRONIC (Creating High-quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic) Care Act of 2018 into law. And this law offers valuable new benefits – particularly for the 19 million Americans who signed up for Medicare Advantage plans:
- Home modifications such as safety grab bars and wheelchair ramps, home aides to help with activities of daily living, and home-delivered and medically tailored meals weren’t covered because they were “non-medical.” Starting 2020, Medicare Advantage plans will cover them.
- People having stroke symptoms will be able to get answers and care advice almost instantly, through telehealth services, no matter how far or near the closest hospital is.
- Medicare Advantage members and ACO patients will also be able to get answers and care advice from their doctors remotely through telehealth services, avoiding the inconvenience and risk of infection (particularly during flue season) of traveling to a doctor’s office for a face-to-face appointment.
- Kidney patients using home dialysis therapy will be able to receive ongoing monthly assessments via telehealth instead of physical doctor appointments.
- The new law increases the number of people enrolled in Independence at Home programs by 50%, making life easier for seniors and their caregivers alike.
- A new program, for Medicare patients getting coordinated care from ACOs, will have a kind of reverse copayment, which pays the patient up to $20 for each visit.
- Medicare Advantage members in SNPs will benefit from faster and smoother coordination of their Medicare and Medicaid benefits.