The House has approved four bills to streamline Medicare procedures, but will the measures get support in the Senate?
The House of Representatives recently approved four bills to update several Medicare practices. Since the measures were considered non-controversial in nature, House members overwhelmingly passed the bills by a voice vote.
The proposals include the implementation of new Medicare “smart” cards that supporters hope will combat fraud, as well as a unified system to determine what medical services the program will cover. The bills will now be sent to the Senate, where, to become law, they’ll need the backing of key lawmakers. Another question will be whether federal funds will be made available to finance the bills should they gain the support they need.
What the Bills Propose
- The Fighting Fraud to Protect Care for Seniors Act recommends Medicare replace the program’s traditional beneficiary cards with ones that use smart technology, such as machine-readable chips, to prevent fraud and abuse. The updated cards would be tested during a three-year pilot project.
- Seniors who may require nursing services but can otherwise live at home may receive the care they need through the Comprehensive Care for Seniors Act. Under this bill, for-profit entities could provide seniors with a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, plan. The services would be funded by Medicare or state Medicaid.
- Since Medicare will eliminate private 1970s-era Medicare managed cost plans in counties where residents can enroll in two or more Medicare Advantage plans in January, the Empowering Seniors’ Enrollment Decision Act outlines the period during which seniors may enroll in a new plan to replace their Medicare managed cost option. The bill also permits sponsors of an eliminated plan to shift enrollees to a Medicare Advantage plan. Although similar to Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare managed cost arrangements differ in their rules.
- Medicare taps private providers known as Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to oversee the program in different regions of the country. A regional MAC, for example, establishes the services it provides and when. The Local Coverage Determination Clarification Act proposes a unified procedure each MAC must use when deciding on its local coverage guidelines. Those guidelines, in turn, would be posted online by the MAC under the bill.
Medicare in Flux
The House proposals are just another indication of possible changes to Medicare — especially since the program’s Board of Trustees estimated the program’s Part A was on track to run out of funds by 2026. Though the House-approved measures deal mostly with procedural matters, the bills, if passed by the Senate, could impact clients if they have to switch their old Medicare managed cost plans or want to take advantage of the PACE program.For insurance agents, the best course of action is to monitor any legislative revisions to the Medicare program and keep their clients informed accordingly. Even without any changes, a recent study from the Nationwide Retirement Institute revealed many retirees are misinformed about what the program pays for and when to enroll. You can fill that knowledge gap by educating your retired or soon-to-be retired clients about this important healthcare program.