Medicare Advantage Plans That Pay for Meals and Air Conditioners?

Next year, insurance plans might cover more benefits that help improve quality of life -- from healthy food to transportation to medical appointments.

Medicare Advantage Plans That Pay for Meals and Air Conditioners? Photo by DGLimages / Shutterstock.com

Medicare Advantage health care plans may cover a broader array of benefits and services next year, including those that help improve quality of life.

Kaiser Health News reports that in 2019, Medicare Advantage plans might cover the following:

  • Air conditioners for folks with asthma
  • Home-delivered meals
  • Transportation to medical appointments

This stems from one of two big changes that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced. CMS is the division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that oversees Medicare, the federal health insurance program primarily reserved for folks age 65 and older.

The changes are:

1. A broader definition of benefits

CMS has expanded the scope of what it considers a “primarily health-related supplemental benefit” that Medicare Advantage plans are allowed to cover. According to the agency:

“This expansion will effectively increase the number of allowable supplemental benefit options and provide patients with benefits and services that may improve their quality of life and health outcomes.”

Citing health insurance experts, Kaiser Health News notes other benefits that insurers may add to their Medicare Advantage plans for 2019 as a result of this change. For example, they could also include minor modifications to beneficiaries’ homes such as:

  • Installing grab bars in a bathroom
  • Aides to help with daily activities like dressing and eating

2. A higher payment rate

CMS also recently announced that it will increase its payment rate for Medicare Advantage plans — by 3.4 percent, about twice what CMS previously projected.

Medicare Advantage plans are one of two main types of Medicare plans.

The other type is referred to as original or traditional Medicare plans. They are fee-for-service plans managed by the Medicare program itself.

Medicare Advantage plans, on the other hand, are managed by private insurance companies. These insurers are approved by and receive payment from the Medicare program.

The two changes noted above will affect millions of Americans. The latest data from CMS show that about 21.5 million folks had Medicare Advantage-type plans as of January. That’s roughly one-third of everyone on Medicare.

To learn more about Medicare plans, check out “7 Things You Need to Know About Medicare.”

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Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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