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Executive Order Aims to Improve Medicare Options and Affordability

It could expand Medicare Advantage choices and increase access to telehealth

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On Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order focused on making changes to the Medicare program. Called Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation's Seniors, it emphasizes Medicare Advantage (MA) — an option that's run by private insurers and serves one-third (22 million) of Medicare beneficiaries — and could expand Medicare Advantage choices and increase access to telehealth.

Trump's order encourages “innovative MA benefit structures and plan designs,” calls for a reduction in barriers to obtaining Medicare medical savings accounts and pushes for a payment model to insurers that would allow beneficiaries to share in care savings, through cash or monetary rebates.

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In addition, the order seeks to expand access to telehealth services, such as virtual visits with health care providers, and pushes for reforms that enable providers to spend more time with patients. The regulations that restrict the ability of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat patients will also be reviewed.

Fighting fraud, waste and abuse in the system is another goal of the executive order, as is shortening the time it takes for medical technologies and treatments to be covered by the program.

Trump calls on the secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, to propose solutions to most of the policies outlined in the order within the next year.

Advocates for affordable health care for older Americans are waiting to hear more details. Lindsey Copeland, federal policy director at the Medicare Rights Center, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group that receives some funding from AARP Foundation, said in a statement that “it is not immediately clear how [Thursday's] executive order might translate into actionable policy proposals.”

"We look forward to reviewing the details of the executive order and to working with policymakers to promote informed choices, strengthen beneficiary decision-making and expand benefits and care innovations across the Medicare program,” Copeland said.

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