Medicare to Pay for At-Home Dementia Care Coordination

Alicia Ault

August 01, 2023

Under a new Medicare pilot program that will begin in 2024, the federal government will pay clinicians to coordinate at-home dementia support services, including respite care for family members.

A Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) initiative, part of the aim of the Guiding an Improved Dementia Experience (GUIDE) program is to help Medicare beneficiaries with dementia stay in the community for as long as possible. It is estimated that there are 6.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia, said HHS.

The program is voluntary and will be open to Medicare-enrolled clinicians and other providers who can assemble an interdisciplinary care team and meet the program's participation criteria.

"Our new GUIDE Model has the potential to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and alleviate the significant strain on our families," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a statement.

"Not only is dementia care management a proven way to improve the quality of care and quality of life for those living with Alzheimer's and other dementia, but now we know that it would also save the federal government billions of dollars," Robert Egge, Alzheimer's Association chief public policy officer and Alzheimer's Impact Movement (AIM) executive director, said in a statement.

Egge cited a recent analysis commissioned by AIM that found that dementia care management would save the federal government nearly $21 billion over 10 years.

"People living with dementia and their caregivers too often struggle to manage their health care and connect with key supports that can allow them to remain in their homes and communities," said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, in the HHS statement.

"Fragmented care contributes to the mental and physical health strain of caring for someone with dementia, as well as the substantial financial burden," she said, adding that Black, Hispanic, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander populations have been especially disadvantaged.

The GUIDE Model will provide new resources and greater access to specialty care to those communities, said Brooks-LaSure.

Care teams that seek to participate in the GUIDE model must have a care navigator who has received required training in dementia, assessment, and care planning.

The teams also must have a clinician with dementia proficiency as recognized by experience caring for adults with cognitive impairment; experience caring for patients aged 65 years old or older; or specialty designation in neurology, psychiatry, geriatrics, geriatric psychiatry, behavioral neurology, or geriatric neurology.

Medicare beneficiaries will be eligible if they are not residing in a nursing home; are not enrolled in hospice; and have a confirmed dementia diagnosis.

Beneficiaries who receive care from GUIDE participants will be placed in one of five "tiers," based on a combination of disease stage and caregiver status. Beneficiary needs, and care intensity and payment, increase by tier.

GUIDE teams will receive a monthly, per-beneficiary amount for providing care management and coordination and caregiver education and support services. They can also bill for respite services — up to an annual cap — for Medicare beneficiaries who have an unpaid caregiver.

Clinicians seeking to participate in GUIDE can apply beginning in the fall. The program will run for 8 years beginning July 1, 2024.

Alzheimer's Association President and CEO Joanne Pike, DrPH, said in a statement that the organization had "advocated for this approach for years, believing it [to be] the key to addressing systemic challenges faced by those with dementia, their families and those who provide them with care and support."

The John A. Hartford Foundation noted that it also had long pushed for a comprehensive dementia care program. "Comprehensive dementia care supports both the medical and nonmedical needs of patients and their family caregivers," said Foundation President Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, in a statement.

"Notably and necessarily, the model will help improve equity in access to care for underserved communities by addressing unpaid caregiver needs, including respite services and screening for health-related social needs," added Fulmer.

Alicia Ault is a St. Petersburg, Florida-based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in publications including JAMA and You can find her on Twitter @aliciaault.

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