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Medicare Enrollment: 3 Ways Medicare Advantage Plans Can Ease Caregiver Stress

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Are you one of the 34.2 million Americans that, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving November 2019 National Report, served as a caregiver for an adult age 50 or older in the past 12 months? If so, you know how stressful the daily demands can be—preparing meals, dressing, managing medications and, chances are, assisting with Medicare enrollment and provider care decisions. Juggling so many demands can damage your health, finances, and relationships. But did you know Medicare Advantage Plans may help ease your heavy load?

Statistics show many caregivers are actively involved with healthcare decisions and serve as care advocates. Understanding Medicare plan options helps you make the best decision for your loved one, while also enabling you to relieve some stress and take better care of yourself. Here are three things about Medicare Advantage Plans every caregiver should know:

1. Supplemental Benefits Keep Expanding

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) started expanding the scope of Medicare Advantage supplemental benefits in April 2018, and hasn’t slowed down. In 2020, they’ve made it even easier for Medicare Advantage Plans to offer expanded supplemental benefits, now allowing plans to cover anything that has “a reasonable expectation” of improving or maintaining the well-being of beneficiaries with chronic conditions.

A study by actuarial consulting firm Milliman reports that in 2020 at least:

  • 364 Medicare Advantage Plans, nearly 12%, will offer expanded supplemental benefits (up from just 3%, or 102, in 2019)
  • 65 plans will cover adult day health services—something no Medicare Advantage Plan has historically covered
  • 58 will cover home-based palliative care to treat physical, emotional, social, and practical problems associated with serious illnesses
  • 148 will cover in-home support services, such as meal delivery and transportation for medical and non-medical reasons, including grocery shopping (nearly triple just 51 in 2019)
  • 77 will offer benefits aimed at supporting the caregivers of enrollees

Some Medicare Advantage Plans may offer benefits for home safety improvements, such as permanent ramps or wider doorways for wheelchairs, or shower grips to prevent falls. Expanded benefits may even include home air cleaners for someone with asthma, transportation to a diabetes education program or nutritionist visit for someone with diabetes, or heart-healthy food for someone with heart disease. Be sure to research available options in your area before helping your loved one with Medicare enrollment.

2. Getting the Right Care Doesn’t Have to Break the Budget
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Cost is typically a major factor when helping your loved one with Medicare enrollment. AARP’s report, “Surprising Out-of-Pocket Costs for Caregivers,” estimates on average family caregivers spend $7,000 per year. Maybe this isn’t so surprising given the fact Original Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover everything, including dental, vision, and hearing. Some Medicare Advantage Plans include dental, vision, hearing, and even wellness benefits.

In addition to offering benefits for these important services, Medicare Advantage 2020 monthly premiums are set to be the lowest in 13 years, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), while benefits continue to expand. CMS estimates the average Medicare Advantage Plan monthly premium in 2020 to be $23, and some Medicare Advantage Plans have a $0 premium, deductible, and copay.

3. Medicare Advantage Satisfaction Scores Continue to Rise

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) projects 24.4 million people will choose a Medicare Advantage Plan for 2020—an all-time high—and studies show enrollees are satisfied with their choice. A poll conducted by Morning Consult reports 94 percent of respondents were satisfied with their Medicare Advantage Plan. Poll results also showed 62 percent said the plan was “a better choice” compared to Original Medicare, largely due to better care coordination.

Get Help with Medicare Enrollment

Researching Medicare plan options for your loved one, and possibly yourself, can be overwhelming. Our goal is to make Medicare enrollment easy and help you make a confident choice that improves the quality of life for everyone. Our Medicare Advocates are just a phone call away and can help you find and compare all the options in your area. Call 1-800-991-4407 / TTY 711 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday, for your personalized, no-cost consultation. You can also use the Medicare Online Enrollment Portal to conveniently find and compare Medicare Advantage Plans available in your area, including prescription drug coverage and physician networks.