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Medicare Advantage Is About to Change. Here’s What You Should Know.

Medicare Advantage plans will be allowed to cover adult day care, home modifications and other new benefits.

When Medicare’s open enrollment period begins on Oct. 15, the private insurers that underwrite Advantage plans — which already lure seniors with things traditional Medicare can’t cover, like eyeglasses, hearing aids and gym memberships — will be free to add a long list of new benefits. Among those the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will now allow, if they’re deemed health-related: Adult day care programs. Home aides to help with activities of daily living, like bathing and dressing. Palliative care at home for some patients. Home safety devices and modifications like grab bars and wheelchair ramps. Transportation to medical appointments.

“This will potentially help people stay in their homes longer and not have to go to institutions,” Seema Verma, the C.M.S. administrator, said in an interview. “You could provide a simple device or a home modification that could mean the world to a patient, but plans weren’t allowed to do that in the past.”

The changes are welcome and intended to help recipients be able to stay in their own home longer, forgoing the expensive ( and potentially counter-productive hospital stays). The plans may not change much the first year, Medicare announced the new rules in April and insurers had less than 3 months to submit proposals. Next year may be more interesting.

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