Some Medicare Advantage plans (private supplemental insurance policies that some Medicare recipients buy) are offering an attractive new option for 2019—to help people with chronic illnesses stay at home. Why is that new? Until now, these plans weren’t legally allowed to cover nonskilled home services and nonmedical devices such as…

  • Home aides who can help with daily activities such as meal preparation, bathing, grooming and taking medications.
  • Transportation to/from doctor’s ­offices.
  • Costs for portable wheelchair ramps, bathroom grab bars and other assistive devices.

Now that’s changed. Some new 2019 Medicare Advantage plans—ones that you can choose during open enrollment, October 15 to December 7—will ­offer these options. These plans will cost more, of course, but may allow aging or disabled adults to “age in place” and live independently…help prevent the need for a nursing home…and relieve stress on family members, who often struggle to provide the help needed and/or pay for private home aides.

For 2019, eligibility criteria aren’t yet available but likely will be limited to patients with a demonstrable need based on a specific chronic condition such as diabetes. These kinds of Medicare Advantage plans don’t have “preexisting conditions”—you can choose one even if you already need these services or not choose one this year but change your mind next year. Note: The new plans are not available for Medigap plans, a different kind of supplemental Medicare insurance.

Would such extra benefits be a good option for you? Start by identifying how much you’re spending this year on the kinds of services and products that would be covered, and estimate how much you’re likely to spend next year, then compare the expected costs to the increased premium for an expanded policy.

Related Articles