The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) continues to issue updated guidance to nursing facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our latest resource details guidance on social distancing, training requirements, admissions, moving residents, and survey activities, as well as providing representation and advocacy tips.
On March 27th, Congress passed the CARES Act (H.R. 748), a $2 trillion funding package aimed at addressing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Americans. Justice in Aging analyzed the bill’s provisions through the lens of low-income older adults and people with disabilities in order to update you on what’s in the bill and what’s missing. The bill makes a number of key investments that will help low-income older adults and people with disabilities.
Our high-level summary of major provisions of the CARES Act also puts forth additional policies Congress must immediately enact to meet the needs of low-income older adults in this crisis.
The Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program is a Medicaid benefit that pays for Medicare premiums as well as protects individuals from coinsurance and copayment for Medicare-covered services. QMB protections apply whether a beneficiary receives Medicare through Original fee-for-service Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.
A new Justice in Aging issue brief, Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Protections in Medicare Advantage: Issues, Tips, and Avenues for Advocacy, looks at how QMB protections apply to beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans and discusses ways advocates can address common issues that arise for QMB beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage. It also identifies areas for advocacy to make Medicare Advantage work more smoothly for QMBs.
The Medicare statute currently excludes nearly all dental coverage for the 60 million older adults and people with disabilities who rely on the program. This dental exclusion disproportionately impacts populations of color, who suffer adverse oral health outcomes at significantly higher rates than white older adults.
Justice in Aging’s new issue brief, Adding a Dental Benefit to Medicare: Addressing Racial Disparities, examines how adding an oral health benefit to Medicare would address disparities in access to care and oral health outcomes based on race, and puts forth additional policy options that can be implemented to further advance oral health equity.
This issue brief is the first in a series of papers that will examine how to address disparities in access to care and oral health outcomes among certain groups of Medicare beneficiaries, including people of color, people with disabilities, older adults with dementia and cognitive impairments, and nursing facility residents.
Retroactive Medicaid coverage is a key financial protection that helps older adults and others who develop sudden illnesses or long term care needs access the care they need right away. It is a smart policy intended to protect low-income people from crushing medical debt in instances where they need emergency medical or long-term care and cannot apply for Medicaid immediately. But several states are eliminating this protection through Medicaid demonstration waivers approved by the federal government.
A new Justice in Aging issue brief—Medicaid Retroactive Coverage: What’s at Stake for Older Adults When States Eliminate This Protection?—discusses typical situations that cause older adults to need Medicaid retroactive coverage, and how the policy helps them access care, while protecting them from financial hardship. The issue brief also delves into how states are using waivers to eliminate this coverage, which states are doing so, and how older adults, their families, and health care providers are harmed when the coverage is eliminated. A companion fact sheet provides a higher level view of the issue.
More dual eligibles—individuals with Medicare and Medicaid—are enrolling in a certain type of Medicare Advantage plan as a result of aggressive marketing efforts targeting dual eligibles. This type of plan, known as a Dual Eligible Special Need Plan (D-SNP) Look-Alike, threatens to undermine promising advancements in integrated care for duals made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). D-SNP look-alikes are not subject to the regulations governing D-SNPs and therefore have no responsibility to coordinate Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Because they are marketed aggressively almost exclusively to duals, they draw dual eligibles away from coordinated options and place responsibility on the consumer to navigate two separate delivery systems, potentially exacerbating disruptions and gaps in care.
Justice in Aging created this issue brief, Dual Eligible Special Need Plan Look-Alikes – A Primer, to help educate advocates working with dual eligibles about the impact of these plans on dual eligibles and to request that advocates report experiences with D-SNP look-alikes to Justice in Aging and CMS.
This new issue brief:
- Outlines some key requirements of D-SNPs;
- identifies the basic characteristics of D-SNP look-alikes;
- discusses problems look-alikes are causing for dual eligibles; and
- proposes ways to restrict them in the Medicare market.
As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit prepares to decide the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this week, it’s time for a check-up on how the law has expanded affordable coverage for low-income older adults. Our new issue brief, 10 Year Check-Up: The Affordable Care Act Has Enhanced Access to Quality Health Care for Low-Income Older Adults, discusses all the ways this landmark legislation has improved the health and economic security of older adults. The brief also discusses how the ACA has become so ingrained in the overall health system, that without the law, the system itself would collapse.
The issue brief provides a detailed look at how the ACA has expanded affordable coverage through Medicaid to more people and made it possible for more older adults to age at home and in their communities instead of in nursing facilities. Under the ACA, older adults also are protected against being charged more for pre-existing conditions and being denied essential health benefits. Low-income older adults who receive both Medicaid and Medicare get better care coordination and more help with prescription drugs. Additionally, the ACA expanded Civil Rights protections for LGBTQ and limited English proficient seniors, and stepped up oversight of nursing facilities, among other protections.
This paper shows how, after 10 years, the ACA is woven deeply into every health care program on which older adults rely. Without it, more older adults would lose their coverage, pay more for premiums and prescription drugs, be at greater risk of institutionalization, and lose many ground-breaking consumer protections. We must continue to work together to strengthen and protect this foundational program.
Accessing the Medicare program as an older immigrant can be a complex and confusing process – especially when an immigrant is not a citizen, has limited work history, and limited English proficiency. Justice in Aging’s new issue brief, Older Immigrants and Medicare, is intended to provide advocates who work with older immigrants a summary of the policies and practices to help immigrants enroll in and pay for Medicare coverage.
The issue brief specifically covers the following topics and includes numerous hypothetical examples to illustrate the myriad of rules and scenarios older immigrants face when attempting to access Medicare:
- Eligibility and enrollment, with particular attention to rules affecting non-citizens
- Help paying for coverage
- Post-enrollment issues potentially affecting immigrant beneficiaries
- Language access rights and resources in Medicare
CalMediConnect, launched in 2014, is California’s dual eligible demonstration and seeks to integrate Medicare and Medicaid benefits under one health plan. One of its purposes is to better meet the needs of dual eligibles by increasing access to long-term services and supports (LTSS) and providing other value-added services, known in the demonstration as Care Plan Options (CPO). However, evaluation data and beneficiary experience indicate that more can be done to provide care for dual eligibles enrolled in the program. Justice in Aging recently obtained data via a Public Records Act request from California’s Department of Health Care Services that includes LTSS referrals and the number and type of CPO services plans are providing members.
Our issue brief, Cal MediConnect: Unmet Need and Great Opportunity in California’s Dual Eligible Demonstration, provides a brief overview of the Cal MediConnect program and examines the health plan referral data for LTSS and CPO services obtained through the Public Records Act request. It concludes with recommendations for policymakers on ways to strengthen Cal MediConnect through improving access to LTSS and CPO services. These recommendations are of interest to those following Cal MediConnect as well as advocates and stakeholders in other states with their own dual eligible demonstrations.
Fewer than half of older adults have access to oral health care each year. One in five older adults has untreated tooth decay and 70 percent have gum disease. Poor oral health and lack of access to health care are even more acute for low-income seniors, seniors of color, and rural seniors. Because oral health is an integral part of overall health and untreated dental problems can cause and/or exacerbate other serious health issues, it is critical to expand older adults’ access to oral health care.
Because all older adults rely on Medicare for their health care needs, integrating oral health benefits into Medicare Part B is the most effective way to deliver comprehensive benefits to all Medicare beneficiaries. Justice in Aging’s statutory analysis shows how such a benefit could be structured and where statutory language could be changed to accommodate such a benefit.