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Workers Compensation , MSA

Medicare Advantage Plans and Workers Compensation Medicare Set-Asides

March 25, 2020

B. Josh Pettingill

We are oftentimes asked about injured workers who have a Medicare Advantage Plan (MAP) and if they still need to use their Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA) funds if the MAP will cover all their medical care. This brief post will explain Medicare’s position on this issue and then provide real-world analysis. There has been a surge of case law over the last several years regarding MAPs and their ability to assert the same rights as Medicare under the MSP statute. However, there is no case law in existence regarding MSAs or where a MAP has denied paying for accident-related care. Over the years, whenever the injured worker has an MAP, the plan covers everything the MSA normally would (and then some).

Medicare Advantage Plan – Part C

Medicare Advantage Plans also referred to as “Part C” Plans, were established under the Social Security Act as an alternative to traditional Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans are a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide all Part A and Part B benefits.

Part C Coverage

Medicare Advantage Plans include Health Maintenance Organizations, Preferred Provider Organizations, Private Fee-for-Service Plans, Special Needs Plans and Medicare Medical Savings Account Plans. If your client is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare services are covered through the plan and are not paid for under original Medicare. Most Medicare Advantage Plans include prescription drug coverage (Part D) as well. In order to be eligible for an MAP, you must be eligible for Medicare Part A and Part B.[1] Part C plans can also cover things that traditional Medicare does not pay for such as gym memberships or dental benefits.

Part C Statistics

As of 2018, more than one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in some type of Medicare Advantage Plan. One in every five (20%) of these enrollees were in group plans offered by employers and unions.[2] What this means for Workers’ Compensation cases is that we are seeing a lot of injured workers who have these types of plans.

Medicare’s Position

From Medicare’s standpoint and per the WCMSA reference guide, section 4.1.3:

“A WCMSA is still recommended when you have coverage through other private health insurance, the Veterans Administration, or Medicare Advantage (Part C). Other coverage could be canceled, or you could elect not to use such a plan. A WCMSA is primary to Medicare Advantage and must be exhausted before using Part C benefits to cover your WC claim-related expenses.”[3]

In other words, they don’t care if there are other forms of private health insurance because the claimant’s circumstances may change and there could be a shift in burden for Medicare to pay. However, by including MAPs in the category of “other coverage”, one could interpret that CMS is also admitting that these plans will likely pay if presented with a bill. That is exactly what we have been seeing.

Real-World Implications

As it stands today, these plans are not rejecting claims on the basis they should be paid for out of a Medicare Set-Aside. There have been rumblings from Medicare that they are sharing Section 111 reporting data with the MAPs which could give them the ammunition to reject claims if they were related to the work-related injury. [4] However, they simply do not have the resources or the wherewithal to do this. It is not to say that it won’t happen in the future. That day is not yet upon us.


You cannot proactively advise your clients to go out and purchase a Medicare Advantage Plan in an effort to circumvent the MSA obligation. Medicare’s position is that the WCMSA exists to protect the Medicare Trust Fund which would mean the injured worker proactively spends money from the MSA account as they treat. Along with that, you cannot control how the providers bill and who they bill.

The practical takeaway is that if your client has a Medicare Advantage Plan, there is a very high likelihood they may never spend a dime of their WCMSA funds. That is the way it stands today. Is it possible that CMS could start to share pertinent data with their MAP partners which would give them the chance to potentially deny paying for accident-related care on the basis they have the same rights under the MSP statute? Yes, but not highly likely.

WCMSAs come from Medicare’s interpretation of the MSP and not from any regulation or case law. Accordingly, it would be a significant stretch to say that a Part C plan could insist upon a set-aside when Medicare itself does not even have a specific regulation or statute requiring them. But, do not be surprised if you see Humana, Cigna or any other MAP provider, at least try to do it someday.

[1] Source:

[2] Source: Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of CMS’s Landscape Files and March Enrollment files for 2010-2018


[4] Unsubstantiated rumors. The passage of the PAID Act would validate this happening.

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