With this series we will bring you the latest news in insurance and access to care. This week we cover Medicare eligibility, CMS priorities, and newly introduced legislation to improve access to diabetes technologies and telehealth.
For more news in diabetes advocacy and policy, check out our compiled news updates here.
Policymakers are advocating to increase access to Medicare coverage by lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 60. Research on the topic indicates that expanding Medicare could improve access to affordable insurance for over 20 million people in the US.
Why it matters: 1 in 4 people over the age of 65 and 1 in 3 people on Medicare have diabetes. If Medicare were expanded to include all people over the age of 60, millions more people with diabetes could access affordable and quality care. Accessing Medicare at a younger age could also help people with diabetes avoid long term complications.
Head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Chiquita Brooks-LaSure intends to prioritize expanding equitable access to insurance. After the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted an insurance crisis in the US, Brooks-LaSure aims to increase access to care for people living in states that have not expanded Medicaidand to increase education about government insurance options in the US.
Why it matters: Diabetes disproportionately impacts low-income populations who are eligible for Medicaid and 1 in 3 Medicare beneficiaries have diabetes. Improvements to government health insurance programs could significantly improve access to quality and affordable care for people with diabetes in the US.
Co-chairs of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Susan Collins, introduced legislation to improve access to diabetes technologies for people on Medicare. The Improving Medicare Beneficiary Access to Innovative Diabetes Technologies Act would establish an HHS and CMS task force that works to reduce barriers to diabetes technologies for seniors.
Why it matters: While Medicare covers most CGMs, people with diabetes on Medicare do not have full access to the latest diabetes technologies, such as CGMs, insulin pumps, and automated insulin delivery systems. With a daughter and granddaughter with type 1 diabetes, Senator Shaheen is personally familiar with the complicated process of getting new technologies covered by insurance. If passed, this bill will help increase access to affordable diabetes technologies for people on Medicare.
What's next: The bill was introduced in the Senate on June 21st and no further actions have been taken on the legislation.
The Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act was introduced in the Senate on June 9th. If passed, the bill would increase access to telehealth services by allowing audio-only telehealth services, waiving geographic restrictions, allow rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers to serve as sites for telehealth, among other measures.
Why it matters: People with diabetes in rural areas have worse health outcomesincluding higher rates of diabetes complications. This is largely because these individuals have less access to diabetes healthcare and have to travel longer distances to receive care. Increasing access to telehealth in rural areas would make it easier for people in rural areas to consult their care providers and likely improve health outcomes in those communities.
What's next: The bill was introduced in the Senate on June 9th and no further actions have been taken on the legislation.
What you can do: For more information on telehealth and how it can improve healthcare, look here.