COVID-19

For seniors on Medicare, there are new offerings that may be appealing during COVID-19

Erika Beras Oct 15, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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EMS medics treat a senior with COVID-19 symptoms in Houston, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images
COVID-19

For seniors on Medicare, there are new offerings that may be appealing during COVID-19

Erika Beras Oct 15, 2020
EMS medics treat a senior with COVID-19 symptoms in Houston, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Medicare provides health care to those 65 and older, and covers more than 60 million Americans. Medicare open enrollment began Thursday. This year, open enrollment looks different, and so do the options seniors have to choose from.

When open enrollment comes around, Medicare beneficiaries are usually bombarded with information in TV, radio and online ads. So people often need assistance in making a choice, said Casey Schwarz, senior counsel for education and federal policy with the nonprofit Medicare Rights Center.

There are federally funded helpers who assist beneficiaries. But this year with the pandemic, “in-person assistance is either limited or not available in some areas,” Schwarz said.

And that means it may be harder for some people to make decisions. This year, there are more options within some plans, including supplemental benefits that aren’t quite health care, but are health care-adjacent, like “meal delivery, transportation to medical appointments,” said Laura Keohane, a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University.

She said that for many seniors, the cost of premiums is the most important factor when picking a plan. And these new benefits may cost more, but “some of these benefits might be more appealing in the time of COVID-19,” Keohane said.

Many of these supplemental benefits were new last year. And there were 250 plans that offered these types of benefits, Keohane said. This year, there are expected to be more than 900. Gerald Kominski, a health policy professor at University of California, Los Angeles, said that’s because “companies may have been cautious about immediately jumping into offering these expanded benefits until they had a better idea about what the cost implications might be.”

And he said that with millions of Medicare beneficiaries, there’s a lot of money at stake.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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