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November 12, 2020
What You Need to Know About Your 2021 Medicare Benefits

What You Need to Know About Your 2021 Medicare Benefits

There are several Medicare changes taking place in 2021, and we’ve read through all the fine print to bring you a quick recap.

From the slightly increased Medicare Part B premium to expanded telehealth and COVID-19 benefits, here's what you need to know about Medicare changes in 2021.

Reminder! The Medical Annual Open Enrollment Period ends December 7 – call us at 833-801-7999 make changes to your health and drug plans before it's over!

Key 2021 Medicare Costs

Your costs for Original Medicare, which includes Parts A and B, have increased slightly for 2021.

  • Medicare Part B premium: $148.50 in 2021 ($144.60 in 2020)
  • Medicare Part B deductible: $203 in 2021 ($198 in 2020)
  • Medicare Part A deductible: $1,484 in 2021 ($1,408 in 2020)

Less than 1% of people pay a premium for Medicare Part A, but for those that do, premiums have increased slightly. You'll pay between $259-$471 per month for Part A's hospital coverage, but again, this effects very few Medicare beneficiaries.

IRMAA Brackets Have Increased

If you have a high income, you pay a higher premium for Medicare coverage (called IRMAA, or Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts).

As of 2021, the income thresholds have gone up slightly. For example, if you’re married filing jointly and make more than $176,000, you’ll pay more. Previously, that threshold was $174,000, but the slight increase is to account for inflation.

Read More: Are Medicare Costs Based On Your Income?

New Acupuncture Coverage Under Original Medicare

Medicare now covers up to 12 acupuncture visits in 90 days for chronic lower back pain. Medicare will cover an additional eight sessions if the beneficiary shows
improvement.

This benefit is available for those with chronic lower back pain (pain lasting 12 weeks or longer), that has no identifiable systemic cause (not associated with metastatic, inflammatory, or infectious disease), and is not associated with surgery or pregnancy.

If you have a Medicare Supplement, these costs would be covered in full in most cases. If you don't have a supplement and only have Original Medicare, you'd be responsible for 20% of the cost. No more than 20 acupuncture treatments will be covered in a year.

A Focus on Expanding Telehealth

Because of COVID-19, many Medicare beneficiaries prefer to have routine appointments and concerns handled virtually. Medicare has quickly risen to the occasion by expanding its telehealth benefits and relaxing its previously strict requirements.

You can now have regular office visits and consultations via audio or video technology. Medicare also covers virtual services like E-visits (messages on patient portals) and Virtual check-ins (sending photos or videos for assessments, for example). Ask your doctor about telehealth options!

COVID-19 Testing and Vaccines

Medicare is offering 100% coverage for all COVID-19 testing, including antibody, or "serology" test.

Many experts look forward to a possible vaccine in early 2021, and when it does arrive, Medicare will cover it in full.

In addition, all medically necessary hospitalizations are covered, though you are still responsible for hospital deductibles, copays, or coinsurances that apply.

If you have a Medicare Supplement, you will likely only be responsible for the Medicare Part B deductible of $203 in 2021. However, your costs depend on which type of Medicare Supplement you have.

Lower Insulin Costs For Participating Part D Plans

Starting January 1, 2021, you may be able to get Medicare drug coverage that offers broad access to many types of insulin for no more than $35 for a 30-day supply.

You can get this savings on insulin if you join a Medicare drug plan or Medicare Advantage Plan with drug coverage that participates in the insulin savings model. This model lets you choose among drug plans that offer insulin at a predictable and affordable cost.

Our licensed insurance agents here at Medicare Allies can help you find a plan that offers this savings on insulin in your state. Just give us a call at 833-801-7999! You can join a participating plan during Open Enrollment (October 15 – December 7, 2020).

Medicare Technology Is Getting Better

Over the past two years or so, Medicare has been working to upgrade their technology. Medicare has revamped their website, the Plan Finder tool is much easier to use, and there’s even a new smartphone app that explains what’s covered by Medicare.

In the past few months, CMS has released even more updates to their online Plan Finder tool, including:

  • Ability to search up to five pharmacies (used to be three)
  • Ability to search by Medicare Advantage plan type (MSA, HMO, PPO, etc.)
  • Adding the ability to filter Part D drug plans by those participating in the insulin savings program, Part D Senior Savings Model
  • Changing the default sort option to lowest out-of-pocket cost + premium, making it even easier to find the most competitively priced plan options

These upgrades are part of the Trump Administration’s eMedicare initiative, and we expect to see even more upgrades in 2021.

Read More: How to Compare Medicare Part D Drug Plan Costs

Medicare Advantage Plans Now Accepting ESRD

In the past, the only health question asked on Medicare Advantage (MA) applications was for End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). With the 21st Century Cures Act, that health question is going away for coverage starting January 1, 2021 (CMS).

This means there are officially no health questions to qualify for most Medicare Advantage plans.

Medicare Advantage Is Becoming More Popular

Finally, Medicare Advantage plans continue to soar in popularity. 2021 premiums for MA plans are expected to decline 34.2% from 2017, while plan choices and benefits are actually increasing.

In 2020, more than one-third (36%) of all Medicare beneficiaries – 24.1 million people out of 67.7 million Medicare beneficiaries overall – are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans (KFF).

The Congressional Budget Office projects that percentage will rise to about 51% by 2030.

Need Help? Call Medicare Allies

Those are the big Medicare changes to expect in 2021. If you have any questions about how these changes will affect you or your coverage, give us a call at 833-801-7999, and we’ll be happy to help you!

Also, be sure to download a copy of the 2021 Medicare & You Handbook if you haven't already!

Luke Hockaday
By
Luke Hockaday
Luke Hockaday is a Customer Success Rep here at Medicare Allies. Luke has been helping Medicare-eligible clients with their insurance and retirement-planning needs since 2011. Luke is passionate about 3 things, and 3 things only: senior insurance, football, and food!

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