Insurance Companies and Group Health Plans to Cover the Cost of At-Home COVID-19 Tests

Posted by CMS Jan 10, 2022:
As part of its ongoing efforts across many channels to expand Americans’ access to free testing, the Biden-Harris Administration is requiring insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests, so people with private health coverage can get them for free starting January 15th.  The new coverage requirement means that most consumers with private health coverage can go online or to a pharmacy or store, buy a test, and either get it paid for up front by their health plan, or get reimbursed for the cost by submitting a claim to their plan. This requirement incentivizes insurers to cover these costs up front and ensures individuals do not need an order from their health care provider to access these tests for free.

Beginning January 15, 2022, individuals with private health insurance coverage or covered by a group health plan who purchase an over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test authorized, cleared, or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be able to have those test costs covered by their plan or insurance. Insurance companies and health plans are required to cover 8 free over-the-counter at-home tests per covered individual per month. That means a family of four, all on the same plan, would be able to get up to 32 of these tests covered by their health plan per month. There is no limit on the number of tests, including at-home tests, that are covered if ordered or administered by a health care provider following an individualized clinical assessment, including for those who may need them due to underlying medical conditions.

“Under President Biden’s leadership, we are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans. This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Since we took office, we have more than tripled the number of sites where people can get COVID-19 tests for free, and we’re also purchasing half a billion at-home, rapid tests to send for free to Americans who need them. By requiring private health plans to cover people’s at-home tests, we are further expanding Americans’ ability to get tests for free when they need them.”

Over-the-counter test purchases will be covered in the commercial market without the need for a health care provider’s order or individualized clinical assessment, and without any cost-sharing requirements such as deductibles, co-payments or coinsurance, prior authorization, or other medical management requirements.

As part of the requirement, the Administration is incentivizing insurers and group health plans to set up programs that allow people to get the over-the-counter tests directly through preferred pharmacies, retailers or other entities with no out-of-pocket costs.  Insurers and plans would cover the costs upfront, eliminating the need for consumers to submit a claim for reimbursement.  When plans and insurers make tests available for upfront coverage through preferred pharmacies or retailers, they are still required to reimburse tests purchased by consumers outside of that network, at a rate of up to $12 per individual test (or the cost of the test, if less than $12). For example, if an individual has a plan that offers direct coverage through their preferred pharmacy but that individual instead purchases tests through an online retailer, the plan is still required to reimburse them up to $12 per individual test. Consumers can find out more information from their plan about how their plan or insurer will cover over-the-counter tests.

“Testing is critically important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as to quickly diagnose COVID-19 so that it can be effectively treated. Today’s action further removes financial barriers and expands access to COVID-19 tests for millions of people,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs are currently required to cover FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 tests without cost-sharing. In 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration issued guidance explaining that State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs must cover all types of FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests without cost sharing under CMS’s interpretation of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2019 (ARP). Medicare pays for COVID-19 diagnostic tests performed by a laboratory, such as PCR and antigen tests, with no beneficiary cost sharing when the test is ordered by a physician, non-physician practitioner, pharmacist, or other authorized health care professional. People enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan should check with their plan to see if their plan offers coverage and payment for at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests.

This effort is in addition to a number of actions the Biden Administration is taking to expand access to testing for all Americans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is providing up to 50 million free, at-home tests to community health centers and Medicare-certified rural health clinics for distribution at no cost to patients and community members. The program is intended to ensure COVID-19 tests are made available to populations and settings in need of testing. HHS also has established more than 10,000 free community-based pharmacy testing sites around the country.  To respond to the Omicron surge, HHS and FEMA are creating surge testing sites in states across the nation.

CMS Announces 2022 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums

Nov. 12, 2021 | Medicare Parts A & B

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2022 Medicare Parts A and B premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts, and the 2022 Part D income-related monthly adjustment amounts. Most people with Medicare will see a 5.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in their 2022 Social Security benefits—the largest COLA in 30 years. This significant COLA increase will more than cover the increase in the Medicare Part B monthly premium.

Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and certain other medical and health services not covered by Medicare Part A. The increase in the standard monthly premium—from $148.50 in 2021 to $170.10 in 2022—is based in part on the statutory requirement to prepare for expenses, such as spending trends driven by COVID-19, and prior Congressional action in the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 that limited the 2021 Medicare Part B monthly premium increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also reflects the need to maintain a contingency reserve for unanticipated increases in health care spending, particularly certain drug costs. There is significant uncertainty regarding the potential for future coverage of clinician-administered Alzheimer’s drugs (i.e., Aduhelm™), requiring additional contingency reserves. Potential Medicare drug coverage is currently the subject of a Medicare National Coverage Determination (NCD) analysis, which, if covered, could increase Medicare spending. The proposed NCD on Aduhelm (as well as any drugs in this category) is still to be determined.

Most people with Medicare will see a significant net increase in Social Security benefits. For example, a retired worker who currently receives $1,565 per month from Social Security can expect to receive a net increase of $70.40 more per month after the Medicare Part B premium is deducted.

“CMS is committed to ensuring high quality care and affordable coverage for those who rely on Medicare today, while protecting Medicare’s sustainability for future generations,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “The increase in the Part B premium for 2022 is continued evidence that rising drug costs threaten the affordability and sustainability of the Medicare program. The Biden-Harris Administration is working to make drug prices more affordable and equitable for all Americans, and to advance drug pricing reform through competition, innovation, and transparency.”

By law, the Medicare Part B monthly premium must equal 25 percent of the estimated total Part B costs for enrollees age 65 and over. CMS has a responsibility to establish an annual Part B premium that will adequately fund projected Medicare spending and maintain an adequate reserve in case actual costs are higher than estimated.

The annual deductible for Medicare Part B beneficiaries grows with the Part B financing and is increasing from $203 in 2021 to $233 in 2022.

Read the full article

CMS Announces Long-Awaited Medicare Plan Finder Improvements

Sourced from: Medicarerights.org 

CMS has announced plans to improve and update the Medicare Plan Finder (MPF) and the Health Plan Management System (HPMS). HPMS is the system that Medicare Advantage and Part D plans use to provide data about their plan offerings to Medicare, and the MPF is the online tool that allows beneficiaries to evaluate, compare, and enroll in those plans. The changes will be in place for the start of the Medicare Open Enrollment Period starting on October 15 for 2022 plans.

 

VIEW COMPLETE ARTICLE 

CMS: 2022 Max Broker Commissions for MA & Medicare Part D

Medicare Advantage commissions will increase 6.31% in 2022! 

Each year, CMS publishes the Fair Market Value (FMV) amounts for initial and renewal compensation.

The amounts for 2022 plan years for Medicare Advantage and PDP are as follows:

READ FULL CMS RELEASE HERE

If you have any questions please reach out to your Cornerstone Senior Marketing representative. 

NAHU: BENES Act Passes

Announcement from NAHU from 12/23/20: 

BENES Act Passes Congress

 

NAHU has advocated for passage of the BENES Act and we are pleased to let you know it was included in the final package passed by the Senate early Tuesday morning. We believe its provisions will help your clients who are transitioning to Medicare and those who may need an SEP:

  • The Coverage Gap Closure. The bill eliminates the up to seven-month-long wait for coverage that people can experience when they sign up for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period or in the later months of their Initial Enrollment Period. Beginning in 2023, Medicare coverage will begin the month after enrollment.
  • The “Exceptional Circumstances” SEP. It reduces barriers to care by expanding Medicare’s authority to grant a Special Enrollment Period for “exceptional circumstances.” A long-standing flexibility within Medicare Advantage and Part D, in 2023 this critical tool will be available to facilitate enrollments program-wide, enhancing beneficiary access and administrative consistency.
  • The Enrollment Alignment Study. To further maximize coverage continuity and ease transitions to Medicare, the bill directs HHS to identify ways to align Medicare’s annual enrollment periods. HHS is to present these findings in a report to Congress by January 1, 2023.

Understanding COVID SEP 2020

There may be some confusion as to whether a COVID SEP exists or ever ended. 

 

To clarify, in late spring, CMS announced a time limited SEP for COVID affected beneficiaries which ended June 30, 2020.  Another disaster/emergency SEP has NOT been put into place.  However, what is always available is the case-by-case SEP for Other Exceptional Circumstances.  To confirm, while some in the industry may have assumed that there is another disaster/emergency SEP in place, this is not the case.

 

For additional information regarding the case-by-case SEP, which has to be referred to Medicare to handle, you can find details here.

 

Still have questions?  We’re here to help.

Contact your Cornerstone Senior Marketing Rep for assistance

614-763-2255

 

or email

 

service@cornerstoneseniormarketing.com

2021 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums

CMS Press Release Nov 6, 2020 | Medicare Parts A & B

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the 2021 monthly Medicare Parts A and B premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts in which the Medicare Part B monthly premium remains steady. This news comes as Medicare Open Enrollment started on October 15, 2020 running through December 7, 2020, and follows the announcement that Medicare Advantage (or private Medicare health plans) and Part D prescription drug plan premiums are at historic lows, with hundreds of Medicare Advantage and Part D plans now offering $35 monthly co-pays for insulin starting in January 2021.

“With the 2021 Medicare Part B premium information now available, I encourage everyone with Medicare to take time over the next four weeks to review their options during Medicare Open Enrollment,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, Medicare Part B premiums remain steady and seniors have more plans than ever to choose from, many new benefits, and historically low Medicare Advantage and Part D premiums.”

Read the full release.

Walmart Launches Into the Medicare Plan Distribution Market

Oct. 6, 2020
By Lori Flees, SVP and COO, Walmart U.S. Health & Wellness

Health care can be complicated. But we think quality health care should be within reach of everyone, and pricing should be transparent and affordable. Our money-saving $4 generic prescription program and, more recently, Walmart Health locations are helping customers save money and live healthier. Similarly, our Healthcare Begins Here program has helped customers navigate the very complex health insurance system for years.

 

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

CMS Released Insulin Manufacturers List

CMS has released a list of Pharmaceutical Insulin Manufacturers that will participate in the Part D Senior Savings Model in 2021.

There are currently three manufacturers involved:

  1. Eli Lilly and Company
  2. Novo Nordisk, Inc. and Novo Nordisk Pharma, Inc.
  3. Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC

The Part D Senior Savings Model is part of CMS’ ongoing efforts to keep insulin co-pays at a $35 maximum for the consumer. This is an ongoing list that is subject for updates, you can view the full list HERE.

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