More flexibility in benefits design could be coming to Medicare Advantage and the Part D prescription drug benefit if proposals offered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are finalized.
The agency issued its proposed update for both programs for the 2020 plan year, which would allow Medicare Advantage plan sponsors to offer more specialized supplemental benefits for beneficiaries with chronic illnesses.
“For the 2020 plan year and beyond, Medicare Advantage plans will have greater flexibility to offer chronically ill patients any benefit that improves or maintains their health,” Demetrios Kouzoukas, CMS principal deputy administrator for Medicare and director of the Center for Medicare, said during a Jan. 30 press teleconference. “For example, plans could provide home-delivered or special meals in a far broader set of circumstances than what is allowed today.”
He noted that it would be up to the plans to determine what kinds of supplemental benefits would be offered and added that the offering of these benefits would not require a waiver, but would be evaluated as part of the plan’s overall bid submitted to the agency.
“We recognize that Medicare beneficiaries frequently have multiple chronic conditions,” Mr. Kouzoukas said. “We are excited that these changes will allow these beneficiaries to have new options for improving their health as a result of innovative health plan benefits.”
For Medicare Part D, the agency is specifically encouraging plan sponsors “to provide lower cost sharing for opioid reversal agents such as naloxone,” he added. The proposal also offers additional flexibility for plans to offer targeted benefits and cost sharing reductions to patients with chronic pain or those undergoing addiction treatment, according to a fact sheet highlighting key proposals.
Comments on the proposals are due by March 1. CMS expects to finalize the changes by the beginning of April.