Better Medicare Alliance Secures Key Protections for Beneficiaries in CMS COVID-19 Announcement

Washington, D.C. – Better Medicare Alliance (BMA), the leading research and advocacy organization supporting Medicare Advantage, responded today to regulatory changes issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency’s announcement includes new flexibility for Medicare Advantage championed by Better Medicare Alliance that will protect coverage for 24.4 million beneficiaries. This includes: modifying the calculation of Star Ratings, pausing audit reviews that take time away from patient care during this critical time, removing the requirement for submission of 2020 Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (CAHPS) survey data, delaying collection of the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) survey, and allowing Medicare Advantage plans to expand telehealth offerings, among other temporary changes.

CMS’s announcement also heeds requests from Better Medicare Alliance and others to update the scope of practice for physician assistants and nurse practitioners amid this national health emergency, enabling these providers to order tests and medications that may have previously required a physician’s signoff.

“Plans, providers, and community partners in Medicare Advantage are working every day to meet the needs of those impacted by COVID-19. The regulatory changes announced by CMS honor key requests made by Better Medicare Alliance and will help ensure that Medicare Advantage can focus on beneficiaries over bureaucracy in this unprecedented moment. What’s more, the agency’s embrace of telehealth – already in use across many Medicare Advantage plans nationwide – has the potential to deliver lasting improvements to patient care that will remain when this pandemic is a distant memory,” said Allyson Y. Schwartz, President and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance. “On behalf of our 143 Ally organizations and grassroots beneficiary advocates, we thank CMS for these critical flexibilities that protect the coverage 24.4 million Americans rely on today.”

Schwartz added, “We will continue to champion reasonable temporary reforms that ensure stability for seniors’ Medicare Advantage benefits and care during and after this crisis. This includes additional flexibilities around risk adjustment, monitoring the need for further modifications to Star Ratings, Part B and D waivers that account for the cost of COVID-19 treatment to Medicare Advantage, and allowing mid-year enhancements to supplemental benefits so that plans can act creatively to address patient needs during this pandemic and provide certainty for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries going forward. As CMS and Congress continue their important work, we will ensure that beneficiaries and providers on the frontlines of health care are considered in this process.”

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