Medicare is a health insurance program for people age 65 years or older, people younger than age 65 with serious disabilities, and most people of all ages with end stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant). Three major categories of Medicare include: Part A, which covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facilities, certain home health care, and hospice care; Part B, which encompasses physicians’ services, outpatient hospital care, and many other medical services; and Part D, the newest component of Medicare, which offers a voluntary prescription drug benefit to beneficiaries. There is also a Part C for Medicare, known as Medicare Advantage, that allows beneficiaries to choose a private health insurance plan that covers the Part A and Part B services and, in most circumstances, additional benefits and/or lower cost-sharing payments than under the traditional Medicare FFS program.
Medicare Part D. Part D is celebrated as the most significant improvement to the program since Medicare was created in 1965. More than 39 million Medicare beneficiaries now have prescription drug coverage through Part D or another source, including almost 24 million beneficiaries in Part D plans.vi CMS continues to improve program administration of the Medicare prescription drug benefit and to expand awareness of the program through relationships with States and pharmacists, increased use of electronic technology, and education and outreach efforts with more than sixteen thousand partners. CMS will continue these efforts to ensure that beneficiaries can get the prescriptions they need. In particular, CMS has collaborated with AoA and its grassroots Aging Services Network, consisting of State agencies on aging, area agencies on aging, and local service providers, to provide one-on-one assistance and outreach directly to beneficiaries and their caregivers.
A number of other initiatives to broaden access are currently underway or in development, such as the “My Health. My Medicare.” campaign and Medicare Medical Savings Accounts.
The “My Health. My Medicare.” campaign helps people with Medicare maximize their understanding of the benefits Medicare offers. CMS promotes beneficiary awareness through mailings, media activities, a strong Internet presence, a 24-hour-a-day toll-free telephone service, grassroots alliances, and enhanced beneficiary counseling with State Health Insurance Assistance Programs. CMS partners in this effort include the National Medicare Education Program Partnership Alliance, AoA and its Aging Services Network, State and local agencies, grassroots organizations, the AARP,1 Medicare Today, the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, national disability provider and constituent organizations, and other stakeholders. CMS continues to build committed partnerships at the community level; these partnerships will ensure the agency can successfully build on the “My Health. My Medicare.” campaign, as well as other health-related initiatives, in future years. These partnerships are having a profound impact on helping CMS reach the Medicare population, especially the program’s most vulnerable beneficiaries. For example, in collaboration with AoA, in addition to working with the general Medicare population, special efforts are being made to target minority populations to reduce health disparities in the Hispanic, Asian, and African-American communities, as well as in rural communities.
Medicare Medical Savings Accounts. CMS is implementing an enhanced consumer-directed Medicare Advantage product called a Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) plan. This type of plan combines a high-deductible health plan with a medical savings account that beneficiaries can use to manage their health care costs. CMS will offer regular MSA plans and new demonstration MSA plans. These plans will provide Medicare beneficiaries with the freedom to exercise increased control over their health care utilization while providing them with important coverage against catastrophic health care costs. CMS is providing increased flexibility with the demonstration MSA plans to make the MSAs more like the popular consumer-directed Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) available in the private sector. Examples of the types of flexibility being made available under the demonstration that are not available under the regular MSA rules include coverage of preventive services during the deductible period, a deductible below an out-of-pocket maximum, cost sharing up to the out-of-pocket maximum, and cost differentials between in- and out-of-network services.