Recent policy changes will make it easier for seniors to enroll in Medicare and retain drug coverage for those with chronic kidney disease, federal health regulators said Friday.
Under the CMS final rule, traditional Medicare coverage will kick in the month immediately after enrolling, eliminating previous delays in coverage for seniors. In special instances, some will be able to enroll in Medicare even if they miss the enrollment period.
Also, people with chronic kidney disease will now be able to keep their coverage following a kidney transplant, but only for immunosuppressive drugs.
Prior to the change, people with chronic kidney disease lost coverage 36 months after receiving a transplant, cutting off access to the drugs that help prevent their immune systems from rejecting transplants.
The policies, which implement changes made under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, will take effect Jan. 1.
Health officials said the changes advance access to coverage and care.
“For the first time, special enrollment periods will be available in traditional Medicare for individuals who were unable to enroll due to exceptional conditions, and individuals who have had a kidney transplant will now be able to receive extended Medicare coverage for immunosuppressive drugs,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement.
In some scenarios, seniors will be eligible for a special enrollment period.
A beneficiary will be eligible for an exception if they miss enrolling due to a disaster or government-declared emergency, if they were incarcerated, or if Medicaid coverage was terminated following the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Beneficiaries will also qualify for a special enrollment period if they can prove their employer plan “materially misrepresented” timely enrollment in Medicare.
The current Medicare open enrollment period will close on Dec. 7.