The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is getting ready to let Medicare Advantage plan issuers add major new long-term care benefits to their supplemental benefits menus.
The Better Medicare Alliance, a Washington-based coalition for companies and groups with an interest in the Medicare Advantage has posted a copy of a memo that shows CMS is reinterpreting the phrase “primarily health related” when deciding whether a Medicare Advantage plan can cover a specific benefit.
Kathryn Coleman, director of the CMS Medicare Drug & Health Plan Contract Administration Group, writes in the memo, which was sent to Medicare Advantage organizations April 27, that CMS will let a plan cover adult day care services for adults who need help with either the basic “activities of daily living,” such as walking or going to the bathroom, or with “instrumental activities of daily living,” such as the ability to cook, clean or shop.
A Medicare Advantage plan could not, apparently, cover skilled nursing home care, or assisted living facility fees. But, in addition to adult day care, a Medicare Advantage plan could pay for:
- In-home support services to help people with disabilities or medical conditions perform activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living within the home, “to compensate for physical impairments, ameliorate the functional/psychological impact of injuries or health conditions, or reduce avoidable emergency and health care utilization.”
- Short-term “respite care” or other support services for family caregivers.
- Making non-Medicare-covered safety changes, such as installing grab bars, that might help people stay in their homes.
- Non-emergency transportation to health care services. (Plans can already pay for ambulance services for enrollees experiencing medical emergencies.)
A Medicare Advantage plan could not use the new interpretation to pay for in-home food delivery.
Coleman notes that the list of benefits a Medicare Advantage plan could cover is not exhaustive.
The Better Market Alliance says the memo is a form of subregulatory guidance. It’s possible that CMS could revise the guidance, and there’s no indication whether any Medicare Advantage issuers will be in a position to add major LTC benefits to their benefits packages for 2019.