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Nursing Homes Move Into The Insurance Business

By Kaiser Health News  
   July 13, 2017

The plans are recent additions to the Medicare Advantage market. “There’s a conflict there,” says a senior attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

This article first appeared July 13, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Jordan Rau

Around the country, a handful of nursing home companies have begun selling their own private Medicare insurance policies, pledging close coordination and promising to give clinicians more authority to decide what treatments they will cover for each patient.

These plans are recent additions to the Medicare Advantage market, where private plans have become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional fee-for-service coverage. Unlike other plans, these policies offered by long-term care companies often place a nurse in the skilled nursing facility or retirement village, where they can talk directly to staff and assess patients’ conditions. Some provide primary care doctors and nurses to residents in the homes or in affiliated assisted living facilities or retirement villages with the aim of staving off hospitalizations.

“The traditional model is making decisions based on paper, and in our model, these decisions are being made by clinicians who are really talking to the staff and seeing the patient,” said Angie Tolbert, a vice president of quality at PruittHealth, which began offering its plan to residents in 10 of its nursing homes in Georgia last year. “It’s a big shift in mindset.”

Not everyone finds such plans superior. Some patients who are in disputes with the insurers have faulted the nursing home staff — who work for the same company — for not helping challenge decisions about coverage. They complain that the company holds an unfair advantage over Medicare beneficiaries.

“There’s a conflict there,” said Toby Edelman, a senior attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

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Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.


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