Hi, my name is John Barkett.
I’m the Senior Director of Policy Affairs at Willis Towers Watson and an expert on Medicare.
In 2020, Medicare Advantage plans are offering new benefits to their members who have chronic illnesses. I think these benefits take 3 forms.
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The first are benefits that help Medicare beneficiaries improve their lifestyle. So for example, if you have diabetes but you’re finding it hard to make changes to your diet, Medicare Advantage plans can now pay for a nutritionist to help you get on the right plan.
Another example might be if you’re an asthmatic, and you’ve got a lot of pollen built up in your house, Medicare Advantage plans can pay someone to come clean out the carpets or rugs in your home to help make it less likely that you have an asthma attack.
Now, those are lifestyle benefits. They (Medicare Advantage plans) can also add health-related benefits.
So for example, if you need help with an adult caregiver, these are new options that Medicare Advantage plans have, to help you – and those who help care for you – provide that care.
Last thing I’ll point is Medicare Advantage plans now have new flexibility in waiving copayments or coinsurance when you go seek care that’s important to managing your chronic illnesses.
So that extra checkup or meeting with a specialist that might otherwise have cost you $100 – that fee can be waived to ensure that you are going to get care, to ensure that you’re managing your illness well.
Over time, I think Medicare Advantage plans could become a really attractive option for people looking for help in managing their chronic illnesses.
I think one challenge for beneficiaries will be figuring out which plans offer which benefits that are best tailored to their personal needs. And right now, a lot of these new benefits are being rolled out in different ways by different plans and in different areas. So early on, especially in 2020/2021, you’re going to want to talk to somebody who knows how to navigate between different plans and who knows what benefits are available to different categories of patients.
Find a licensed benefits advisor. Call your health plan and ask them detailed questions. That will ensure that you are signing up for a plan that best meets your needs, and will help ensure that you have a successful and healthy year as a patient in the coming year.
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John Barkett is the Senior Director of Policy Affairs for Willis Towers Watson and Advisor to MedicareAdvantage.com.
He previously worked for Extend Health, the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange, athenahealth, inc., and Medica Healthcare Plans, Inc.
From 2009-2011, John worked on the drafting, passage and implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as a staffer in Congress and in the Department of Health and Human Services.
John is a former president of the Wharton Health Care Management Alumni Association. He is based in Washington, DC.