Changes in an important new Medicare regulation could lead employers and unions to enroll more retirees in private Medicare Advantage plans.[@@]
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today posted the final version of the regulation, which will implement the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, on its Web site.
An MMA Medicare prescription drug program is supposed to get under way in January 2006, and the act also is supposed to expand the role of private health plans in Medicare by revamping the Medicare Advantage private health plan program.
HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a draft of the regulations needed to implement MMA in August 2004.
The authors of the new, final version added language that encourages employers and unions to provide extra help for retiree health plan members who enroll in prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage plans that offer prescription drug benefits.
“There are several ways that employer and union plan sponsors could supplement the standard Medicare drug benefit,” according to the regulation authors.
CMS officials say recent agency surveys have shown that many employers are interested in several strategies for providing comprehensive coverage, including customized Medicare Advantage plans.
The authors of the final rule also have included language making it clear that prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans, not participating pharmacies, are responsible for coverage decisions.