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The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially dangerous for older adults, and Medicare Advantage plans are responding accordingly.
In 2021, one out of every three Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) will offer new supplemental benefits related to keeping seniors safe from coronavirus.
This is according to a data report released Oct. 21 by the health care consulting firm Avalere Health. In all, 34% of Medicare Advantage plans will provide supplemental benefits that are in some way tied to the current pandemic.
Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies and are required by law to provide all of the same basic benefits as Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Once those minimum requirements are met, many Medicare Advantage plans may then offer additional, or supplemental, coverage for benefits not covered by Original Medicare.
The analysis found that 94% of Medicare Advantage plans will offer telehealth services for benefits covered by Medicare Part B in 2021. Telehealth use spiked in 2020 as more seniors looked for ways to avoid visiting doctor’s offices and risking exposure to coronavirus infection. Even Original Medicare expanded its own telehealth benefits in 2020.
27% of Medicare Advantage plans will offer COVID-19 care and relief packages to plan members. The packages will include face masks, hand sanitizer, a thermometer and other preventive tools.
More than half of Medicare Advantage plans (57%) will include benefits for home meal deliveries, up from just 23% of all Medicare Advantage plans in 2018.
Nearly 8 out of 10 plans will offer over-the-counter (OTC) drug benefits, and nearly half will offer non-emergency medical transportation coverage.
In a press release announcing the findings, Joanna Young, a principal at Avalere, said, “(Medicare Advantage) plans are quickly adapting to the new reality by recognizing the needs of Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic.”
The most popular extra benefits offered by some Medicare Advantage plans in 2021 (and not covered by Original Medicare) include routine vision care (98% of plans), hearing care (94%), fitness club or gym memberships (92%) and dental coverage (91%).
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