Today’s timely guest post is from Medicare expert Christian Worstell, who gives an update on how Medicare changes in 2021 can benefit American travelers — assuming we get the opportunity.
It all starts with the distribution of safe, effective vaccines, which could be available soon. And for Medicare recipients, as Christian points out, they’ll be free — just one of several upcoming perks. Here’s the latest:
By Christian Worstell
After a year of isolating at home and waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic, surveys show that once it’s safe, American baby boomers are eager to hit the road and travel again in 2021.
And as they do every year at this time, Medicare-eligible boomers are looking ahead to any changes in their Medicare benefits for the upcoming year.
So, what does one have to do with the other? It’s simple, really. Some of the changes in store for Medicare in 2021 might be quite helpful for beneficiaries who want to travel in the new year.
Here are five upcoming changes to Medicare that may benefit your travel plans in 2021.
1. Free COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage
Medicare will provide full coverage for COVID-19 vaccines if and when they become available — and recent progress seems very encouraging on that front. This means older adults who want to travel next year may be able to do so with the peace of mind of having been vaccinated — and not paying a dime for it.
2. Expanded Telehealth Benefits
Zoom and Skype have been a boon to everyone working from home or keeping in touch with distant family during the pandemic.
Video conferencing has also been valuable in the health care space — allowing patients to use various video platforms to conduct face-to-face appointments with their doctors from the safety of their own homes and away from COVID-19 risk exposure.
In response to the pandemic, Medicare expanded its coverage of telehealth benefits to now include 144 different services. Coverage of these services will last as long as the Public Health Emergency declaration stays in place — and Medicare has hinted that many will become permanent fixtures even after the coronavirus pandemic has ended.
The Internet is accessible almost everywhere these days, so travelers who have Medicare can now take their doctors with them on the road. Plus, telehealth coverage means – in a way – you can take some of your Medicare coverage with you outside the U.S., something that was not previously possible.
3. Acupuncture Coverage for Back Pain
Chronic back pain can make walking, standing, flying and driving long distances painful and uncomfortable. This is an all-too-common reason older people avoid taking long trips.
But here’s some weight off your back, so to speak: Beginning in 2021, Medicare will cover acupuncture to treat chronic lower back pain.
It’s a landmark ruling, as Original Medicare has never before provided coverage for acupuncture of any type. And because Original Medicare is accepted all over the U.S., you may be able find an acupuncture provider nearly anywhere you go who can help relieve your pain as you travel.
4. Lower Insulin Costs
This change won’t necessarily make traveling any safer or easier, but it can help many people afford more cash for their travel budgets.
More than 1,750 standalone Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans with prescription drug coverage will offer lower insulin costs in 2021 as part of the Part D Senior Savings Model.
This new initiative will cap beneficiary spending at a maximum of $35 for a one-month supply of insulin, from the beginning of the year until you reach the Part D coverage gap.
And less money spent on your insulin means more money to spend on your travels.
5. Cheaper Medicare Plan Costs
Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans continue to get more affordable.
While costs for Original Medicare and under-65 private insurance plans continue to climb, Medicare Advantage premiums in 2021 have dropped to their lowest point since 2007, and Part D premiums have decreased 12 percent since 2017.
As is the case with the lower insulin costs, any money you save on your Medicare premiums can mean more money toward your travels.
You shouldn’t leave home without your Medicare coverage — but in 2021, there’s little reason to stay home with it.
Christian Worstell is an author and expert on Medicare topics.