Los Angeles Times Columnist Highlights Medicare Coverage Changes
Los Angeles Times columnist Bob Rosenblatt today profiles some of the "rapid changes" taking place in Medicare this year. Among those changes:
- Several "major, sophisticated" diagnostic tools for breast cancer, including positron emission tomography scans and "image guidance" -- a "less invasive" alternative to surgical biopsy -- are now covered by Medicare.
- Medicare will cover two foot exams annually for beneficiaries with diabetes who have peripheral neuropathy, a nerve condition that makes it difficult to feel the foot pain that could indicate an injury. Many people with diabetes have undetected foot injuries.
- A policy enacted in December prohibits discrimination in Medicare services for people with Alzheimer's disease. Families had complained in the past that beneficiaries with Alzheimer's had been denied care for services such as occupational therapy or speech therapy.
- Beginning next month, the Social Security Administration will send letters to beneficiaries alerting them to financial assistance programs such as the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program and the Specified Low-income Medicare Beneficiary program. Fewer than 25% of eligible beneficiaries are currently enrolled in Medicare financial assistance programs.
- Beneficiaries choosing a Medicare HMO for 2003 during open enrollment next November will be allowed to switch plans once between Jan. 1 and March 30 and then will not be allowed to change plans for the rest of the year. Previously, beneficiaries had been able to switch plans on a monthly basis (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 4/22).
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