Medicare and What’s New in 2021
The year 2020 was an interesting year with many changes, and thankfully a new year is here. Changes will continue as the new year goes along, and some of those changes will be in Medicare. Medicare is the federal health insurance for seniors aged 65 or older, and others who qualify due to a specific disability. Medicare costs and coverage can change from year to year, but here is what’s new in Medicare in 2021.
Medicare Advantage plans do not have health questions
The year 2021 has brought good news for people with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Those with ESRD were not eligible for a Medicare Advantage plan in previous years due to their illness. Medicare Advantage plans only had one health question, which asked if the beneficiary had ESRD. If you were answered yes, then you could be denied a Medicare Advantage plan unless a Special Needs Medicare Advantage was available in your service area.
Since beneficiaries with ESRD usually didn’t qualify for a Medicare Advantage plan, they often purchased a Medigap plan, which is known for higher premiums than Medicare Advantage plans. In the year 2021, private insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage plans will no longer ask any health questions.
This is excellent news for people with ESRD, considering this could be their first chance to enroll in a low-cost Medicare Advantage plan. Eliminating this one health question now gives every beneficiary the opportunity to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan.
Increase in Medicare costs
There are two parts to Medicare: Part A for your inpatient care and Part B for your outpatient care. Many seniors believe Medicare is free, which is a common misconception. Medicare does come with certain costs, and the price for each part typically increases each year.
Medicare Part A
Most Medicare beneficiaries do not pay for Part A, as they have funded Part A by paying FICA taxes throughout their working years. If you have worked ten years (40 quarters) in the United States and paid payroll taxes, you’re entitled to $0-premium Medicare Part A. However, if you did not work 40 quarters but worked 30 quarters, you will pay $259 a month for Part A in 2021.
Part A has a deductible, which you will only pay when admitted to the hospital. The Part A deductible increased by $76 in 2021, making the 2021 Part A deductible $1,484 per benefit period.
Medicare Part B
You will pay the Part B premium regardless of your previous work history. The Part B premium was predicted to increase in 2021 significantly, but surprisingly only increased by $4. The standard base Part B premium in 2021 is $148.50 per month. The Part B deductible also had a minor increase, making the new annual Part B deductible $203.
Medicare and coronavirus
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease that has infected millions worldwide. The coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020 and has followed us into 2021. Medicare had to make changes to its coverage to ensure senior citizens can receive the care they need without complications.
There are two coronavirus tests you can take to see if you have or had the coronavirus— the nasal swab test and the serology test. When you have either of these tests in a hospital, doctor’s office, or select drive-thru locations, Medicare Part B covers the test with no cost-sharing expenses to you.
Typically, when you receive an outpatient service, you will pay either the Part B deductible or coinsurance, but Medicare has changed this to ensure you will not have any out-of-pocket costs for a coronavirus test.
There are currently two coronavirus vaccinations in the United States approved by the FDA for emergency use. The two coronavirus vaccinations are Pfizer-BionNTech and Moderna. If you receive either of these vaccinations, Medicare Part B will cover the vaccine fully. You will have no cost-sharing expenses for the coronavirus vaccine.
There were many changes in the year 2020, and they will continue in 2021. However, the changes made in Medicare in 2021 can assure beneficiaries they have the healthcare coverage they need.