Medicare’s annual enrollment period is right around the corner, and the new Medicare & You handbook has been released just in time. This is the official U.S. government Medicare handbook, and it contains important updates for 2021.
New Comparison Tools
Comparing plans, providers and services can be challenging, but Medicare has been working on updating online tools to make these comparisons easier. At Medicare.gov/plan-compare, beneficiaries can use the updated Medicare Plan Finder tool to search for and compare plans available in the area.
CMS has also recently launched a streamlined tool that helps beneficiaries compare doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, home health services, hospice care, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, long-term care hospitals and dialysis facilities.
COVID-19 and Telehealth Benefits
COVID-19 has been the most pressing health concern for many people, and the new handbook makes mention of the pandemic and associated issues.
Many people have been taking advantage of telehealth benefits to obtain care without risking exposure to the virus. The new handbooks states that Medicare also covers certain virtual services, including e-visits and virtual check-ins.
Also, the handbook includes a reminder about the flu shot. This year, getting the flu shot is considered especially important because flu season will overlap with the pandemic. Medicare covers one flu shot per flu season and there is no out-of-pocket cost for the beneficiary as long as the provider accepts assignment for giving the shot.
Because the pandemic situation may change rapidly, people are encouraged to visit Medicare.gov for the most up-to-date information. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or TTY at 1-877-486-2048.
Important Coverage Changes
Several coverage changes have been announced in recent months and will be in effect in 2021.
- Many plans will provide low-cost insulin. Plans participating in the Part D Senior Savings Model will offer a 30-day supply of insulin for a maximum copay of $35.
- Acupuncture is covered. Medicare beneficiaries with chronic low back pain can get coverage for a limited number of acupuncture sessions.
- Patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) can join Medicare Advantage. Previous rules that restricted patients with ESRD from enrolling in Medicare Advantage are being lifted starting with plan year 2021. Medicare beneficiaries with ESRD can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the AEP that runs from October 15, 2020, to December 7, 2020.
You can download the Medicare & You handbook in different formats or have a physical copy mailed to you.
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