Rebecca Lamb: Medicare recipients should expect positive changes | SteamboatToday.com

Rebecca Lamb: Medicare recipients should expect positive changes

Over the last months, much has been said about Medicare and expected cutbacks under the current administration.

The 60 million members of Medicare and those people who will be turning Medicare age can expect substantial positive changes that will improve Medicare recipients' care and the system overall. Most or all of these changes were made by Congress in 2018 and will be in effect in 2019.

For those who are familiar with Medicare Part D, there is currently a "doughnut hole" period where enrollees are required to pay more for their drugs after they reached a certain level of spending. The omnibus spending bill Congress passed in March will close the doughnut hole for brand name drugs in 2019 and for generic in 2020.

This will make a huge difference for people on fixed incomes who formerly had to tough it through the doughnut hole period to get to a place where they would resume getting help with their drug premiums.

Medicare Advantage plans have been given the option to pay for home health aides. Formerly, the definition of this benefit was narrow and related to health issues rather than the functions of daily living such as eating or dressing. With the broader interpretation, people with physical impairments rather than just health issues will receive in-home assistance. Caps have been removed for physical and occupational therapy.

Additionally, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which will promote innovation in health care. Telehealth services are being expanded. Beginning in January 2019, services such as home delivery of meals, safety upgrades to the home and other lifestyle support services will be funded.

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The changes outlined here are positive for all Medicare recipients and will make the quality of care for seniors take an important step forward.

Rebecca Lamb

Steamboat Springs

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