Helpful Medicare Advantage Benefits During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan, you probably know you get benefits that aren’t available through Original Medicare. But you might not be aware of a significant change to Medicare Advantage in 2020: plans can now offer wellness benefits to its enrollees too.
Many of these new Medicare Advantage benefits can help keep you safer during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it’s important to practice social distancing and limit errands outside your home.
Medicare Advantage benefits that can help protect you from COVID-19
1. Meal delivery
Nearly half of all Medicare Advantage plans cover meal delivery in 2020.1 Enrollees usually only qualify for meal-delivery coverage after a hospital stay; but your provider might cover meal delivery to help the home-bound during the coronavirus pandemic.
Meal delivery can be an excellent way to limit trips to the grocery store and keep your social distancing strategy in place.
2. Telehealth services
One of the biggest changes to Medicare Advantage benefits for 2020 is coverage for telehealth services, with nearly 3 out of 5 Medicare Advantage plans offering the benefit.2 Telehealth services allow you to virtually see a doctor, dermatologist, or even a counselor with a webcam or smartphone. Health providers can make diagnoses and even prescribe medication for you during these video calls.
Many insurers offer telehealth services via video portals on their websites or through a smartphone or tablet app. Check your plan’s webpage for more details.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when you are cautioned to avoid crowds—especially clusters of potentially sick patients at doctors’ offices—telehealth could be one of the best benefits Medicare Advantage provides. A virtual visit to the doctor, made from the relative safety of your home, can help reduce your risk of being exposed to, or spreading, the coronavirus.
Original Medicare covers telehealth differently during the pandemic, which you can read about in our Medicare telehealth guide.
3. Transportation assistance
More than a third of Medicare Advantage plans in 2020 provide transportation assistance for members.3 This transportation is specifically for non-emergency care to plan-approved locations. During the pandemic, these locations may include grocery stores or other businesses vital to helping you stock up on food so you can stay home for more extended periods.
Your plan may also offer medical transportation assistance, helping you get to a COVID-19 testing center or a hospital with space if facilities nearby reach capacity.
4. Over-the-counter benefit
Quite a few Medicare Advantage plans (68%) offer an over-the-counter (OTC) benefit in 2020.4 With this benefit, members have a quarterly “allowance” to use on any OTC drug. With this benefit, you can stock up on medication (like cough syrup or Tylenol) to reduce COVID-19 symptoms. Make sure to talk to your doctor about medications to best treat your symptoms.
How to access your Medicare Advantage benefits
To find out which benefits your Medicare Advantage plan includes, examine your summary of benefits and coverage (SBC). If the SBC lists a supplemental benefit you’d like to use, you can call your plan to ask about how to use the benefit, visit your plan’s website for information, or see your Evidence of Coverage for details.
Some Medicare Advantage plans have a dedicated portal for members, which is also a great place to start using your supplemental benefits.
Other Medicare Advantage benefits Original Medicare doesn’t provide
Besides the benefits covered above, Medicare Advantage plans can provide even more perks for members. Here’s a list of supplemental benefits a Medicare Advantage plan can offer:
- Fitness membership (like SilverSneakers) or wellness program
- Chiropractic care
- Home modifications (like railings in the shower or bathroom)
- In-home support services (like cleaning, laundry, or grocery shopping)
- Adult day care services
- Chronic condition support (such as carpet cleaning for those with asthma or dietician support for those with diabetes)
How to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan with more benefits
If you looked at your Medicare Advantage plan’s summary of benefits and coverage but didn’t find the benefits you want, you may be able to switch to a different plan.
If you’re in an enrollment period such as the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (January 1–March 31) or Annual Enrollment Period (October 15–December 7), you can switch to another plan with the Medicare.gov plan finder. You may also qualify for a Special Enrollment Period at other times of the year. You can find out more about enrollment periods using our enrollment period cheat sheet.
For the easiest way to switch Medicare Advantage plans, call the number, and a licensed agent can help.
How to switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage
If you’re on Original Medicare and want to switch to Medicare Advantage, you may have to wait until the Annual Enrollment Period (October 15–December 7), or you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. An agent can help you switch to a plan that fits your needs.
Wrap up: Supplemental benefits can be advantageous for COVID-19
Reading the news about coronavirus can be unsettling, but Medicare Advantage plans have some built-in benefits that are especially useful for social distancing. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan, familiarize yourself with your benefits so you can keep your distance, maintain your health, and stay safe during this pandemic.
1. Avalere, “Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries Will Again See a Jump in Supplemental Benefit Offerings in 2020”
2. Avalere, “Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries Will Again See a Jump in Supplemental Benefit 3 Offerings in 2020”
3. Avalere, “Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries Will Again See a Jump in Supplemental Benefit Offerings in 2020”
4. Avalere, “Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries Will Again See a Jump in Supplemental Benefit Offerings in 2020”
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