How the pandemic upended Medicare, from expanding teleheath to draining its funds

Miami Herald: How the Pandemic Upended Medicare, From Expanding Telehealth to Draining its Funds (October 15, 2020)

As the Medicare system scrambled to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected older, medically fragile Americans, some of its own financial vulnerabilities were laid bare.

The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, which funds hospitalizations, will be insolvent by 2024, two years earlier than a CBO projection made in May before the effects of the pandemic were factored in. At the same time, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services took a number of steps to provide better care for seniors during the pandemic, including increasing access to telehealth services as well as providing more plan choices for those living in rural areas. “For older adults, access to broadband Internet and Smartphone technology and facility with using them can be an issue,” said Natalie Kean, a senior staff attorney at Justice in Aging. “We know that a lot of older adults with limited English are reluctant to ask for an interpreter. They’re used to relying on family members to navigate their care and those people may not be accessible during the pandemic.

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