The federal government is aiming to expand the use of virtual visits for seniors with requested new changes to Medicare Advantage.
In a proposed rule issued late Friday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it will allow private plans to pay for telehealth services that weren’t previously covered. Healthcare officials said that it is part of a push from the administration to “modernize” Medicare Advantage, which is becoming increasingly popular among the nation’s seniors.
“An increasing number of seniors are voting with their feet and choosing to receive their Medicare benefits through private plans in Medicare Advantage. Today’s proposed changes would give Medicare Advantage plans more flexibility to innovate in response to patients’ needs,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a press release.
Medicare open enrollment is now underway and lasts until Dec. 7. CMS said that it is offering the new option to plans starting in 2019, with insurers making other added benefits available, including adult day care services, in-home support services, and benefits tailored to patients with chronic diseases. The agency expects steadily growing Medicare Advantage enrollment to climb by another 11.5%, with 600 more plans available across the U.S.
Friday’s proposed changes for plan year 2020 would leverage new authority provided to CMS in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed by the president earlier this year. Under the new rule, Medicare Advantage plans would be able to offer additional telehealth benefits which aren’t otherwise available to Medicare enrollees as part of government-funded basic benefits. Enrollees also will be able to receive telehealth in places like their home, without being required to go to a healthcare facility to receive services.
“As Medicare beneficiaries become more tech savvy, CMS is working across the agency to promote beneficiary access to telehealth, but the Medicare fee-for-service program telehealth benefit is narrowly defined and includes restrictions on where beneficiaries receiving care via telehealth can be located,” CMS noted in the news release.
The proposed rule also includes steps to improve care coordination for dual-eligible beneficiaries, along with new measures to help CMS recover improper payments made to MA organizations. The latter, the agency said, could save the Medicare Trust fund about $4.5 billion over a 10-year period.Further details on the proposed rule can also be found in this CMS fact sheet.