Even though Medicare is now covering skilled care for beneficiaries who are not improving, many are still being denied coverage, according to Judith Stein, director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. Stein told Reuters columnist Mark Miller that despite a nationwide educational campaign mandated by the recent settlement of a lawsuit, many providers don’t have information about the settlement or understand the new rules.
Under the settlement agreement in Jimmo v. Sebelius, the federal government agreed to end Medicare’s longstanding practice of requiring that beneficiaries with chronic conditions and disabilities show a likelihood of improvement in order to receive coverage of skilled care and therapy services. The new rules require that Medicare cover skilled care as long as the beneficiary needs skilled care, even if it would simply maintain the beneficiary’s current condition or slow further deterioration.
As part of the implementation of the settlement, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has posted online resources and updated its Medicare manual to reflect the changes. CMS launched an educational campaign in January to explain the settlement and the revised manual provisions to providers, but many providers remain unaware of what is covered or how to bill Medicare for the services. The campaign was not aimed at beneficiaries, so few are aware of the rules and that they can fight a denial of coverage.
Miller focuses on one beneficiary, Robert Kleiber, 78, who receives weekly visits from a physical therapist to alleviate symptoms of his Parkinson’s disease. Kleiber’s wife recently learned that the treatments should be covered under Medicare’s new rules but so far she has been unable to convince the home health care provider of this.
Stein said she is getting “a lot of inquiries from people who have had problems getting access to care. There’s still a great deal of education that healthcare providers need to get on this. Many of them just aren’t aware of what they need to do to proceed.”