Medicare card on top of $100 bill

As Senate Democrats quibble over what Medicare expansion might look like, home care observers are wondering what a larger program might mean for Medicare Advantage, which increasingly is insuring more seniors at home. 

Tyler Overstreet Cromer, principal at research firm ATI Advisory, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily that if traditional Medicare adds more benefits, MA plans will likely be forced to do the same.

“I fully expect we’d see an expansion in additional supplemental benefits provided in Medicare Advantage — things like home care, expanded meals and food, social benefits, pest control and transportation — in order to maintain a competitive edge over traditional fee-for-service,” Cromer said.

On Tuesday night, Senate Democrats reached an agreement on a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package that would include growing Medicare. But Democratic lawmakers are at odds over how the program might be expanded. It could mean lowering the eligibility age to 60 or offering additional benefits covering vision, dental and hearing. Those benefits are currently offered under most Medicare Advantage plans, not under traditional Medicare.

Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra recently told Kaiser Health News the Biden administration will support any plan to expand the program.

“Our preference is to get it done. What’s the ‘it’? We’ll take everything we can get,” Becerra said.

Last month, the president and a bipartisan group of senators reached a $1.2 trillion infrastructure compromise that left out funding for so-called human infrastructure, which includes the care economy. Democrats hope to pass legislation covering human infrastructure through reconciliation, which would allow them to pass spending with a simple majority. 

“We’re going to get this done for the sake of making average Americans’ lives a whole lot better,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.