In 2016, three blind Medicare beneficiaries and the National Federation of the Blind sued CMS, saying that blind and low-vision Medicare-eligibles did not have proper access to Medicare information. Last month, they reached an agreement which requires that CMS provide materials for low-vision beneficiaries, such as in the form of Braille, large print, and audio. CMS is also now required to extend time restraints for those who have a harder time accessing time-sensitive communications. Medicare for the blind is slowly but surely improving.
Medicare benefits are only good if people actually have access to them and can understand what they’re getting. This is just another way your services can be beyond helpful. Blind beneficiaries can’t access information as easily as others, but you can explain everything to them verbally. On a positive note, you may not have to wait until AEP to sell to blind beneficiaries. Blindness is considered a disability (that makes it hard to find work), so your blind clients may receive Medicaid or Social Security benefits. That means that you may run into quite a few blind beneficiaries with a permanent SEP.
One of the most important Medicare benefits to remember when you’re selling Medicare to the blind is home care. While Original Medicare does not cover permanent home health services, like a live-in nurse or meal delivery, it does cover part-time home health. That means it may be able to help your beneficiaries who have a hard time with certain household duties (like those that require sight) have a bit of help.
If you have a blind client who is seeking more assistance, we have some good news. CMS has allowed Medicare Advantage plans more freedoms in home health care coverage for 2019 plans. The benefits must compensate for a physical impairment, help prevent trips to the emergency room, or diminish the impact of a health condition.
Seniors and Medicare eligibles may also have access to coverage for home modifications next year. As you may know, Medicare currently only covers “Durable Medical Equipment.”. Next year, items such as stair chair lifts and other modifications will be allowed. Blind beneficiaries may be able to use this to their advantage as they make modifications to their homes that prevent injuries due to low or no vision capabilities.
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