Medi­care ex­pand­ing ac­cess to in-home sup­port ser­vices

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NATION - By Ri­cardo Alonso-zaldivar The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — Medi­care is ex­per­i­ment­ing with a new di­rec­tion in health care. Start­ing next year, se­niors in many states will be able to get ad­di­tional ser­vices, such as help with chores and respite for care­givers, through pri­vate Medi­care Ad­van­tage in­sur­ance plans.

There’s a grow­ing recog­ni­tion that such prac­ti­cal help can have a mean­ing­ful im­pact on pa­tients’ well-be­ing — and re­duce some costs for tax­pay­ers. A cou­ple of hun­dred dol­lars to in­stall grab bars in the shower can pre­vent a fall lead­ing to a bro­ken hip.

That may also help el­derly peo­ple stay in their homes longer.

The newly cov­ered ser­vices are sim­i­lar to what peo­ple might need if they re­quired long-term care, said Howard Gleck­man, a se­nior re­searcher at the non­par­ti­san Ur­ban In­sti­tute think tank.

“It be­gins to break down the wall be­tween long-term care and Medi­care, which, with very few ex­cep­tions, has never paid for long-term care,” Gleck­man said.

Change is start­ing slowly. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers have yet to fig­ure out how to bring sim­i­lar ben­e­fits to tra­di­tional Medi­care, still the choice of 2 out of 3 se­niors.

The new ser­vices will be of­fered by some Medi­care Ad­van­tage plans in more than 20 states next year, and that’s ex­pected to grow over time.

There has to be a health-re­lated rea­son to qual­ify, and costs will vary among plans. In some plans, there’s no added cost.

For years, Medi­care has per­mit­ted pri­vate plans to of­fer sup­ple­men­tal ben­e­fits not cov­ered by the tra­di­tional pro­gram. Think free gym mem­ber­ships, trans­porta­tion to med­i­cal ap­point­ments or home-de­liv­ered meals fol­low­ing a hos­pi­tal­iza­tion.

The new ben­e­fits take that to a higher level, with Medi­care’s bless­ing.

“It is a big con­cept, in the sense that it is of­fi­cially en­cour­ag­ing plans to get across the line into the many, many things that af­fect the health and well-be­ing of ben­e­fi­cia­ries,” said Marc Russo, pres­i­dent of in­surer An­them’s Medi­care busi­ness.

Pablo Martinez Mon­si­vais

The As­so­ci­ated Press New ser­vices will be of­fered by some Medi­care Ad­van­tage plans in more than 20 states next year, and that’s ex­pected to grow over time.

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