What Does the 2015
Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 Mean For You?

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) restructured many large aspects of Medicare. It mainly affects how physicians are paid for their services. While it was signed into law in April of 2015 with widespread bipartisan support, MACRA’s changes that directly affect Medicare beneficiaries only began coming about this year. What are these changes and what does MACRA mean for Medicare beneficiaries? When you see the different outcomes of the 2015 act, you’ll see the why and how of the influence of MACRA.

New Medicare Cards

One part of the 2015 MACRA that many Medicare beneficiaries will be familiar with at this point is the new Medicare cards it called for. You should have received yours by now. MACRA mandated the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) update their card design to improve security. To comply with the new law and help prevent fraud and protect against identity theft, CMS replaced Social Security numbers (SSNs) on Medicare cards with Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers (MBIs). The MBI is a generated combination of letters and numbers used to quickly identify beneficiaries.

MACRA mandated that CMS update their Medicare card design to improve security. CMS replaced Social Security Numbers with Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers on cards.

If you haven’t received your card yet, you have three simple options. The first thing you can do is call 1-800-MEDICARE and explain that you haven’t gotten your new card. The associate you’re speaking with should be able to verify your Medicare status and help you get a card. You can also log in to MyMedicare.gov to find your MBI and print out a Medicare card. Finally, you can ask your health care provider to find your MBI.

Updates For Medicare Supplement Plans

Another massive change that’s coming as a result of MACRA is in relation to Medicare Supplements. Specifically, two of the more comprehensive Medigap plans are being discontinued in 2020. These plans are Medicare Supplement Plans C and F, both of which are notable because they cover the Medicare Part B deductible. In fact, these are the only two Medicare Supplements that cover the Part B deductible, which is why they’re being discontinued. As part of MACRA, Congress voted to eliminate “first-dollar coverage,” which these two plans provide. Luckily, if you’re currently enrolled in either of these plans or enroll in one of them prior to 2020, you can keep your plan.

As part of the 2015 MACRA, Congress took a vote to eliminate “first-dollar coverage,” which Medicare Supplement Plans C and F provided.

After 2020 starts, Medicare beneficiaries will also see changes relating to Medigap Plans D and G, which are similar to Plans C and F, respectively, minus coverage of the Part B deductible. Currently, Plans D and G aren’t guaranteed issue plans, but in 2020, they’ll become guaranteed issue plans for newly-eligible Medicare enrollees (people eligible for Medicare on or after January 1, 2020). Medicare-eligible individuals can enroll in guaranteed issue Medigap plans outside of their Medigap open enrollment period — even if they have past or present health conditions — as long as they have a guaranteed issue right. MACRA also creates a new, high-deductible Medigap Plan G plan.

Merit-Based Incentive Pay For Doctors

Perhaps one of the most significant changes the 2015 MACRA made — modifying the way physicians are paid — doesn’t directly affect Medicare beneficiaries, but it’s still worth being aware of. MACRA repealed the Sustainable Growth Rate Formula, which helped set the Medicare Part B reimbursement rate for doctors. In its place, the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Models (AMPS) were created under the Quality Payment ProgramMIPS and AMPS are programs that measure performance under certain categories, with the aim of rewarding excellent service from health care providers.

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MACRA has made large changes to the way that Medicare works in the United States. Whether you see them or not, though, they can and may actually affect you, especially if you’re in a Medicare Supplement plan or simply have received a new Medicare card. That’s why it helps to be aware of what these changes are and how they’ll influence your coverage.

If you have questions about your Medicare coverage or are looking for a change, it may be helpful to contact a licensed Medicare sales agent, who can answer your questions or help you find a plan that fits your needs.