QUESTION: Medicare has been health care coverage for seniors for many years – are there any recent changes made that improve their services?
ANSWER: Medicare is now 54 years old. It was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson with President Harry S Truman at his side; through the years that followed many changes have been made to the program.
From 1965 to 1962 Medicare provided health insurance for eligible Americans 65 years of age and older. In1972 the program was expanded to include those people who were severely disabled and those with end-stage renal disease.
In 1983 it was amended again this time allowing federal employees, including members of Congress, to be covered. In 1985 it was amended to include Health Maintenance Organizations to be included as providers and in 2006 included prescription drug coverage through Medicare Part D.
More recent changes occurred in 2018 and again this year. The unpopular “Donut Hole” part of Part D Prescription Drug Coverage is on its way out. It was scheduled to be eliminated by 2020. This plan was partially moved up – the donut hole for 2019 is gone for brand-name drugs and will be completely gone for all drugs in 2020.
Coverage for therapy in original Medicare placed a cap on the amount of therapy covered for outpatient physical, speech or occupational therapy. Congress has permanently repealed that cap and services are no longer limited.
Medicare is coming into the age of technology. It is steadily broadening the availability of telehealth programs. This allows patients to work with their doctors via telephone or on the Internet. In 2019 this service will be available for those with end-stage renal disease or during treatment for a stroke.
For those who receive their Medicare coverage via Senior Advantage Plans they will start seeing additional services being offered. Insurer’s selling Advantage Plans will have the option of covering home delivered means, transportation to doctor’s appointments and some safety features in the home. Advantage plans have also been given the option to offer assistance in the home.
These new options are on the horizon and each plan will be able to select the services they wish to include in their plans.
The new regulations will also allow people to try a plan for up to 3 months and then switch to another plan, including original Medicare, if they choose . This change was mandated by Congress in the 21st Century Cures Act.
Last but not least the Medicare and You Book you receive annually has been improved. The changes make it easier to understand your choices. I suggest you read this book cover-to-cover each year –it contains a lot of good and needed information. It is easy reading.
FRIDAY – May 3 – at 5:00 pm – Cinco de Mayo Fiesta – at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. Enjoy dinner, live music and dancing. Tickets are $10 and available at Goebel’s front desk.
SUNDAY – May 5 – 12 noon to 4:00 pm – Garden Tour – Camarillo Hospice invites you to tour 5 Fabulous Gardens – the tour creates a delightful afternoon of fun and friendship in addition to 5 amazing gardens. Tickets are $25 – for more information call (805) 642-0239 ext 450.
TUESDAY – May 9 – 9:30 am to 1:00 pm – EXPO – Pleasant Valley Recreation & Park District Senior Center – “50 Plus Expo” at Community Center, 1650 E. Burnly Street, Camarillo – free admission, 70 plus exhibits, health screenings, musical entertainment and much more. For more information call (805)482-4881 or visit www.pvrd.org.
THURSDAY – May 9 – 10:00 to 11:30 am – Seminar – “Will You Pass Your Next Driving Test?” – at Agoura Hills Recreation & Event Center,29900 Ladyface Court in Agoura Hills – to make reservations call (818) 597-7361.
Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are located at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362 or call (805) 495-6250 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (please include your telephone number) You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.