CMS has announced a Special COVID-19 Open Enrollment Period for people having difficulty finding health insurance, spanning February 15-May 15, 2021. For details see https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/2021-special-enrollment-period-response-covid-19-emergency. Rules and procedures can be very complicated. Your dialysis facility Social Worker may be able to provide help or direct you to other assistance. You can also connect to free detailed, unbiased advice on navigating the health insurance labyrinth, tailored to your specific situation, from a trained expert in health insurance options, rules, and procedures, at https://www.shiptacenter.org/.
Rules and procedures also vary by state; a quick overview for the six states in ESRD Networks 16 and 18 follows:
The CMS National Training Program will present two two-hour Understanding Medicare webinars, covering Medicare Program basics, at 10am PST on January 19 and 20, 2021. These webinars will be recorded and posted at http://CMSnationaltrainingprogram.cms.gov/?q=ntp-courses. CEU credits are not available.
The January 19 webinar explains Medicare enrollment and eligibility, SSA and CMS roles and responsibilities, cost and coverage under Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance), why enrolling on time is important, and an overview of Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies. Register at http://CMSnationaltrainingprogram.cms.gov/moodle/course/view.php?id=118.
CMS will present a January 14, 2021 National Training Program (NTP) webinar on Medicare Update and Education, wherein they will “share Medicare updates, tips for training preparation, and demonstrate how to use the NTP website to maximize your Medicare training experience.” NTP “provides support for partners and stakeholders, not-for-profit professionals and volunteers who work with seniors and people with disabilities, and others who help people make informed health care decisions.” Find out more about NTP at https://cmsnationaltrainingprogram.cms.gov/. Register for the January webinar at https://cmsnationaltrainingprogram.cms.gov/moodle/login/index.php.
MEI has added a new module (#18) to Kidney School on Paying for Dialysis or Transplant, discussing what Medicare covers and how to apply, employer Group Health plans, and Medigap plans and how they work. Find MEI’s Kidney School at https://kidneyschool.org/mods/ and scroll down to find the new modules.
The Renal Support Network has been offering its free Annual Patient Education Meeting for kidney patients and their families in the Los Angeles area for 27 years. With COVID-19 complicating things this year, RSN did what only Lori Hartwell could have imagined doing – they went global and online, and made it five times as big! So this year, RSN Hope Week will span November 10-14, 2020 with a different theme each day: CKD on day 1, Dialysis on day 2, Transplant on day 3, All Stages of Care on day 4, and Parenting Children with CKD on day 5.
The Renal Support Network has published an excellent blog post titled Original Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage Plans: How Do I Decide? The post compares “plain vanilla” Medicare to Medicare Advantage (“MA” or sometimes, informally, “Medicare Part C”). Ongoing kidney patients will be eligible for MA plans in 2021 for the first time, and Medicare beneficiaries can switch plans until December 7, 2020. There are pros and cons to both, and each MA plan is unique, so kidney patients should huddle with their insurance advisors and their social worker to make sure that they enroll in the plan which best suits their individual situation. While MA plans can provide additional benefits, they are tied to specific provider groups (or “networks” – not to be confused with the ESRD Networks), and since they may provide very different advantages and disadvantages in different places, they must be evaluated individually.