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The Future of Medicare: 15 Proposals You Should Know About

Pros and cons of options on the table in Washington

5. Increase Medicare Cost-Sharing for Home Health Care, Skilled Nursing Facility Care and Laboratory Services

Medicare does not charge a copay for patients whose doctors prescribe home health care or for the first 20 days in a skilled nursing facility. Several proposals would require a copay for home health care, including one that would require a payment of $100 for home health episodes with five or more home health visits and add copays for the first 20 days of care in a skilled nursing facility. Medicare does not currently require a copay for laboratory services (such as blood and diagnostic tests). A number of proposals would require beneficiaries to pay 20 percent of the cost of laboratory services.

PRO: Imposing a copayment for home health, skilled nursing facility and laboratory services will discourage unnecessary use of these services. Shifting more of the cost for these services to Medicare beneficiaries will also reduce Medicare costs and help to improve the long-term stability of the program. Most Medicare supplemental insurance plans (such as Medigap) would cover at least a portion of the cost-sharing, which would lessen the financial burden of these proposals on the majority of beneficiaries who have supplemental coverage. (Avalere Health)

CON: Many Medicare beneficiaries — particularly those who are low income and do not qualify for any additional assistance — will have trouble affording new copayments for home health, skilled nursing facility and laboratory services. These individuals may end up not receiving needed care or services. Even Medicare beneficiaries with supplemental policies could face higher out-of-pocket costs, as premiums would likely rise to offset the higher copays. State governments would also pay more, as Medicaid would be responsible for the copayments of low-income Medicare beneficiaries who receive assistance from Medicaid. (Avalere Health)

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