‘Dual-eligible special needs’ coverage may benefit TN seniors

Published 8:52 am Wednesday, April 3, 2024

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Certain health plans offer benefits for eligible low-income seniors in Tennessee who have special medical needs but not everyone knows they are available.

Dual-use special-needs plans are Medicare Advantage plans only for those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. In 2021, 46% of eligible Tennesseans were enrolled in a dual plan, a rate higher than the 29% national average.

Katie Evans, chief of long-term services and supports for the Division of TennCare, said choosing a plan means weighing benefits, coverage, exclusions and service areas. She added the plans help maximize both Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

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“Currently, we have 105,000 individuals enrolled in a D-SNPs in the state of Tennessee,” Evans reported. “We have about 172,000 full-benefit dual eligibles. Of those that are enrolled in a D-SNP, about 2,000 of those are in a fully integrated dual-eligible plan.”

Evans noted along with Medicare Parts A and B coverage and Medicaid benefits, the plans may include dental coverage, transportation assistance and allowances for things like healthy foods.

Evans pointed out plan members receive a personalized, individual care plan, developed by a team of providers. It helps coordinate the person’s benefits and connect them to services.

“A D-SNP plan, like other Medicare Advantage Plans, provides coverage for hospital stays, regular doctor’s visits and prescription benefits that could be needed at any time,” Evans emphasized. “D-SNP members also have supplemental benefits and increased levels of standard benefits and services.”

She suggested looking online at Medicare.gov to compare Medicare Advantage plans, including dual eligible special needs plans.

Dr. Gina Williams, associate medical director for UnitedHealthcare, said the push to get more eligible people to sign up coincides with greater awareness of the need for preventive care in a post-pandemic world.

“Everybody’s kind of going into a phase where they’re not only thinking about acute illness but they’re thinking about overall care,” Williams observed. “What was the impact of the pandemic from a psychological standpoint? Do you need more support? And then, do you also need more coordination of benefits?”

As of last December, more than 714,000 Medicaid enrollees renewed their coverage but more than 379,000 residents were disenrolled as states started reexamining their Medicaid rolls post-pandemic. Nationwide, it is estimated 15 million patients will lose their coverage as the process continues.