RISE summarizes the latest regulatory headlines.

Fed $1.5T spending deal extends telehealth flexibilities

Congress reached an agreement Wednesday on a $1.5 trillion package that eliminates additional money for the COVID-19 pandemic but extends Medicare coverage of telehealth flexibilities and improves maternal health. The legislation will extend telehealth flexibilities for 151 days after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, which will allow beneficiaries to continue accessing care from their homes. It also includes $9 million in grants to improve maternal health outcomes.

Study: As many as 16M could lose Medicaid when public health emergency ends

A new analysis by the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines what will happen to health coverage of millions of new Medicaid enrollment after the HHS Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends. The longer the PHE lasts, the greater the number of people who will lose Medicaid coverage over the 14 months after the PHE ends. If it expires the first quarter of 2022, nearly 13 million could lose coverage. The number increases to 14.4 million if it expires after the second quarter and as many as 16 million if it ends after the third quarter. As a result, states must take steps now to minimize losses of health coverage, researchers said.

BMA, AHIP respond to CMS Advance Notice, proposed rule

Both the Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) and AHIP sent comment letters in response to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) 2023 Medicare Advantage Advance Notice and proposed rule. The BMA said it supports the regulatory agency’s proposals to drive health equity and address social determinants of health. However, it encouraged CMS to delay its proposed pharmacy price concession changes, which could limit access to zero-dollar premium plans and raise costs for Medicare Advantage (MA) beneficiaries enrolled in an integrated MA-PD plan. AHIP had similar comments. For details, see BMA’s comment letter on the 2023 Medicare Advantage Advance Notice here and its comment letter on the 2023 Medicare Advantage proposed rule here. AHIP’s letter on the proposed rule can be found here and the Advance Notice here.

AHIP: Medigap plan enrollees three times less likely to have problems paying bills

A new report released by AHIP’s Center for Policy Research examines trends in Medicare Supplement insurance and highlights the financial value these plans offer to seniors and people with disabilities. Because of the out-of-pocket costs that original Medicare doesn’t cover, Medigap has become an important resource for enrollees to budget medical expenses. As a result, more seniors are choosing these plans. The report finds that Medicare enrollees with Medicare Supplement coverage were three times less likely to have problems paying medical bills compared to enrollees without Medicare Supplement policies. Among original Medicare enrollees without additional insurance coverage (such as Medicaid, employer-provided insurance, etc.), 53 percent chose Medicare Supplement coverage in 2020. Between December 2017 and December 2020, the share of original Medicare beneficiaries who purchase Medicare Supplement coverage increased from 35 percent to 39 percent.