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With this series we will bring you the latest news in insurance and access to care. This week we cover healthcare reform, Medicare eligibility, the new CMS administrator, and telehealth expansion.

For more news in diabetes advocacy and policy, check out our compiled news updates here


Nevada’s ambitions for healthcare reform include a state-run public option

Nevada’s State Legislature is working on a bill that would create government-run health insurance. This would create a public option through the state-run insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. The measure would require companies that provide Medicaid services to offer public option plans.

Why it matters: There are about 350,000 Nevada residents who do not have health insurance, and 12.4 percent of the adult population have diabetes. Supporters for the bill say that it would increase access to affordable care to a significant amount of these uninsured individuals.


What happens if we expand Medicare eligibility?

President Biden and other policymakers have proposed lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 60. Studies show that lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 60 would make care more affordable for people aged 60-64 and could reduce costs of employer health plans by as much as 15 percent.

Why it matters: Most adults age 60-64 have private coverage through their employer or the ACA marketplace. Analysis shows that adults who switch from employer plans to Medicare end up saving almost $4,000 each year. Older adults are also at higher risk of diabetes and therefore require more trips to the doctor and higher medical bills. Lowering the age of Medicare could improve access and affordability for these millions of people.


GAO calls for more telehealth research before permanent expansion

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) told Congress that government agencies should wait until there is more research before expanding telehealth coverage for Medicare and Medicaid programs. Some GAO officials worry that there have not been enough studies proving that virtual visits are as effective as in-person visits.

Why it matters: Telehealth coverage for many healthcare plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, is set to end when the public health emergency is over. Telehealth visits between doctors and patients increased throughout the pandemic. These services were critical in helping patients stay connected with their providers while maintaining social distancing. Because telehealth reduces barriers to care such as transportation, people with diabetes should have permanent access to these services to more easily access healthcare.

What's next: Several policymakers are in favor of maintaining telehealth coverage. They have proposed bills in the House and Senate, but whether or not these policies are successful remains to be seen.

What you can do: Look here for more information about what CMS can do to expand telehealth. Join diaTribe Change in advocating for permanent telehealth expansion.


Senate confirms Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to lead CMS

The Senate confirmed Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to oversee the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Brooks-LaSure will be the first Black woman confirmed to lead the agency.

Why it matters: Congress is not likely to support Biden’s progressive plan for healthcare reform, leaving CMS as the Administration's main resource for healthcare reform. Brooks-LaSure was a key drafter of the ACA and is well positioned to support Biden’s plan to protect and expand the ACA and increase access to healthcare in the US. Brooks-LaSure also signaled her support for permanently expanding telehealth which could help people with diabetes more easily access healthcare.


New House, Senate bills aim to make telehealth expansion permanent in Medicare, Medicaid

The House and Senate have introduced bills aimed to make telehealth services used during the pandemic permanent for individuals on Medicaid and Medicare. The Permanency for Audio-Only Telehealth Act would enable audio-only telehealth services for Medicare enrollees. Senators have also proposed increasing telehealth access for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries.

Why it matters: The temporary expansion of telehealth has made remote care more accessible but these benefits are set to end with the pandemic. If made permanent, millions of people with diabetes could access care remotely, reducing transportation and some cost barriers.

What you can do: Look here for more information about what CMS can do to expand telehealth. Join diaTribe Change in advocating for permanent telehealth expansion.