Whether it’s your first time enrolling in Medicare or you’re already familiar with the program, all enrollees need to learn about its impending changes coming in 2019. The 53-year-old program—signed into law in 1965 under the Social Security Administration—will undergo a massive transformation affecting its 60 million members.
Although enrollees may feel concerned by the word “changes,” they should find relief in knowing these changes are for their own benefit. Those looking to enroll in Medicare to take advantage of these improvements may do so during Medicare Annual Enrollment, which takes place from Oct. 15, 2018 through Dec. 7, 2018.
From revamped digital resources to increased flexibility and benefits, here’s what you need to know about the improvements coming to Medicare in 2019:
Expanded Benefits for Medicare in 2019
According to Medicare Rights Center, Medicare Advantage plans will be able to expand their coverage to include supplemental health benefits previously not covered by Medicare. These expansions include benefits for social determinants of health, such as nutritional care.
AARP notes that some Medicare Advantage plans will now offer the option to cover home-delivered meals, transportation to doctor appointments, in-home safety features (such as handles or ramps) and provide the option to pay for in-home help (such as health aides for eating and dressing).
According to AARP, Medicare is broadening telehealth availability. Enrollees undergoing treatments for end-stage renal disease or strokes will now be able to confer with a nurse or doctor via the internet or telephone.
Say Goodbye to a Therapy Cap
Also according to AARP, those who benefit from Original Medicare will no longer have to pay full price for outpatient physical therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy. Although this was the case in the past, Congress has officially repealed the therapy cap so that enrollees can have more access to these health services.
Closing the Donut Hole
Are you familiar with the term? “Donut hole” refers to the coverage gap created when enrollees with high prescription costs are required to pay more for their medicine after a certain price threshold is met.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was originally supposed to close the donut hole in 2020; however, Congress recently decided to accelerate this process to 2019. Note that this change will only apply to brand-name drugs, at least for the time being. Generic drugs will see the same change, but not until the original deadline of 2020.
New Medicare Cards
Newer and safer Medicare cards are officially being issued. Due to the fraudulent risks associated with the previous cards, Congress authorized a change back in 2015. Rather than using your Social Security number as your ID number, these new cards utilize an 11-character Medicare identifier unique to the service.
Although these new cards intend to reduce the chances of identity theft, enrollees must continue exerting caution. As reported by The New York Times, criminals constantly find new ways to scam people, such as calling to ask for a fee (even though the card is free) or requesting personal information for mailing a new card (even though this process is done automatically). Medicare will never call you uninvited for such requests. If you receive a suspicious call, report it by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
These changes are just a few of the improvements coming to Medicare in 2019. Stay up-to-date with everything you need to know with GoMedicare.
Still have questions about Medicare coverage and how it affects you? Visit our website for more information.
This information is for educational purposes only. Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.