Posts filed under ‘Deficit Reduction’

What a Shame

CMS has decided to raise rates for private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. This is contrary to its earlier announcement that private Medicare reimbursement rates would be reduced to reflect slower per capita growth in Medicare and health care. Politicians from both parties and insurance companies called for this change and, unfortunately, CMS reversed course.

So, private Medicare will continue to cost more than it would cost to serve similar beneficiaries in traditional Medicare. While this may be good for insurance companies that offer MA plans, it is not good for Medicare, the vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries, or taxpayers.

Why should we spend more of our limited public funds on private Medicare when traditional Medicare costs less? Why should taxpayers ensure private profits to deliver public Medicare coverage? After all, the experiment in privatizing Medicare was originally intended to see if a private model would cost less, while providing the same or better coverage than traditional Medicare. That was not to be.

Private plans left the market when their reimbursements were capped at or below the per capita rate of public Medicare. CMS failed to learn from that experiment, and maintain the cost of traditional Medicare as the maximum taxpayers would pay for private plans. Instead, since the Medicare Act of 2003 we actually pay private plans more than traditional Medicare. This result is not good for the financial security of the Medicare program or for the federal budget deficit. It’s not good for the vast majority of beneficiaries who continue to choose the traditional Medicare program. It’s not even best for many MA enrollees, particularly those with long-term and chronic conditions, who often get less coverage than they would in traditional Medicare. And remember, by design MA plans have limited networks, so private MA enrollees have fewer choices in physicians and other health care providers than they’d have in traditional Medicare.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy continues to call for parity in payments between private Medicare plans and traditional Medicare. It’s the best deal for taxpayers, the Medicare program, and the vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries. Common sense should prevail.

April 8, 2014 at 7:17 pm Leave a comment

Don’t Believe Us? Listen to the George W. Bush CMS Director!

And we quote: Mark McClellan, CMS Administrator in the G. W. Bush Administration:
“If the exchanges’ tech problems are resolved by November, no one will even remember what happened this week,” McClellan said, comparing the Affordable Care Act rollout to when the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit took effect.
“Millions of seniors in different programs were enrolled into new [private] drug plans, and the computer system fumbled the handoff for tens of thousands of people who really urgently needed their prescriptions,” he said. “By comparison, the frustration of not being able to shop online in the first days of the Obamacare exchanges is small potatoes.”

[From Politico 10/4/2013]

October 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

Stop Bleeding Medicare By Wasting Money on Private Plans

And we quote:

Private insurers’ Medicare Advantage plans cost Medicare an extra $34.1 billion in 2012
Instead of being more efficient, private insurers have cost Medicare almost $300 billion more over the life of the program

A study published online today finds that the private insurance companies that participate in Medicare under the Medicare Advantage program and its predecessors have cost the publicly funded program for the elderly and disabled an extra $282.6 billion since 1985, most of it over the past eight years. In 2012 alone, private insurers were overpaid $34.1 billion.
That’s wasted money that should have been spent on improving patient care, shoring up Medicare’s trust fund or reducing the federal deficit, the researchers say.
The findings appear in an article published in the International Journal of Health Services by Drs. Ida Hellander, Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein titled “Medicare overpayments to private plans, 1985-2012: Shifting seniors to private plans has already cost Medicare US$282.6 billion.”
Hellander is policy director at Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a nonprofit research and advocacy group. Woolhandler and Himmelstein are professors at the City University of New York School of Public Health, visiting professors at Harvard Medical School and co-founders of PNHP.”

May 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm Leave a comment

Proposed Home Health Co-Pay is a Big Mistake

We have to say, Forbes has it right!  The co-pay for Medicare home health care proposed in the President’s budget is a big mistake.  It will not save money, will harm people with chronic conditions, and will increase avoidable hospitalizations.  It isn’t even a good tool for fighting fraud – if that is the goal.

Far from getting too much care, our experience is that thousands of people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, paralysis, and other long-term conditions, struggle to get the home care they DO need.  A little bit of nursing and/or therapy, along with hands-on health aide services, often means the difference between staying home and requiring a hospital stay or nursing home placement.  For most Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions, home health care is more humane, more effective and less expensive.

If fraud is the concern, fight it. Don’t add co-pays or other barriers for those who really do need home care and qualify for Medicare coverage.

April 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

Priorities: People – and Medicare – Before Drug Company Profits

As we said in today’s Politico Op Ed, it’s time to support Senator Rockefeller’s bill – and all serious efforts to reduce what Medicare pays for prescription drugs. High time. There are over 50 million people with Medicare. Why would we not insist on lowering drug prices for all of them? It would save Medicare $141 Billion over ten years. Wal-Mart knows the value of negotiating low prices for vast numbers of people, and is sure to do so. So should Medicare.

April 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm Leave a comment

ACA is Good for Medicare!

Misconceptions and misinformation about the Affordable Care Act are still too many to innumerate. However, as advocates for Medicare beneficiaries and a strong Medicare program, we can tell you that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is good for beneficiaries and good for the stability of a full and fair Medicare program. ACA has already added significantly to Medicare-covered preventive services – with no beneficiary cost-sharing, continues to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for people under Medicare Part D, is phasing out wasteful overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans and added over a decade to Medicare’s long-term solvency.

Happy Anniversary, ACA. As my grandmother would say, “You should live and be well!”

March 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm 2 comments

Ryan Retread: Ideology Trumps Medicare Protection and Deficit Reduction

The Ryan plan for 2013 is the same as the Ryan plan for 2012 and 2011: Privatize Medicare and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Once again the Ryan budget proposes to preserve Medicare in name only. It would change Medicare into a defined voucher system, sending beneficiaries into the marketplace to purchase indiivual insurance plans. These ideas were at the heart of the 2012 election. They are about changing the way government and Medicare work, not about saving Medicare or money. The proposals were rejected at the polls.

If Medicare and the deficit are really our concern, there are real savings possible that would not harm older and disabled people: Bring down the prices Medicare pays for drugs. Stop all overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans. Add a prescription drug benefit to traditional Medicare. Lower the age of eligibility for Medicare. Let the Affordable Care Act work.

Mr. Ryan, move on! Join us in focusing on real solutions.

March 13, 2013 at 2:02 pm 1 comment

Not Saying We Told You So …

The cover story of today’s Time Magazine Special Report agrees with our long-standing call for Medicare to negotiate drug prices and lower the age of Medicare eligibility.  Even the CMS Medicare Director agrees that Medicare should negotiate what it pays for drugs. Just seven years ago Medicare  didn’t even have a drug benefit – now it’s the largest buyer of drugs in the world!

Congress:  It’s time to repeal the Bush-era prohibition against Medicare negotiating on behalf of all its customers. That’s how to drive costs down for Medicare, older people, people with disabilities, and taxpayers.

Wal-Mart does it – Medicare should too!

February 21, 2013 at 9:48 pm Leave a comment

Benefit Cuts or Drug Discounts?

According to a 2012 Congressional Budget Office report, aligning Medicare drug payments with what Medicaid pays just for low-income beneficiaries would save $137.4 Billion over ten years. (CBO Estimates for President’s Budget for 2013, 3/16/2012).

While the President suggested this reform in his State of the Union address, discounting what Medicare pays for drugs has thus far not been taken seriously by decision-makers.

Instead, we have repeatedly been told that Medicare cannot be sustained and that benefit cuts are necessary. Yet all these Medicare benefit cuts combined would only equal $35.4 Billion in savings over ten years:
1. Increasing income-related Part B premiums;
2. Increasing income-related Part D premiums;
3. Increasing Part B deductible for new enrollees;
4. Adding a Part B premium surcharge for first-dollar Medigap coverage;
5. Adding home health co-pays for new enrollees.

If all of these benefit cuts, that would hurt older and disabled people, save only 25% of the savings that would be achieved by requiring drug companies to give the same discounts to Medicare as it gives to Medicaid, why don’t we choose drug discounts? How can benefit cuts be preferable if the goals are to reduce the deficit and save Medicare for future generations?

Lower Medicare payments for prescription drugs. Choose People and Medicare over PRxOFITS!

February 15, 2013 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

Medicare Shoppers: Pay Less for Rx!

Want to lower the costs of Medicare for all beneficiaries and taxpayers? Lower the prices Medicare pays for prescription drugs! Like Medicaid and the Veterans Administration – Medicare should negotiate discounts for all beneficiaries. This would save over $200 Billion over the next 10 years.

It’s time to end the Bush era gift to the pharmaceutical industry, which got 50 million new customers when Medicare began covering drugs in 2006, without being asked to lower prices in return. Walmart and Costco negotiate prices for all their customers, that’s how their customers pay less. Medicare should do no less for its “customers.” Surely older people, people with disabilities and taxpayers deserve the kind of consideration given to Walmart shoppers.

“Check out our website for a full list of solutions that would preserve Medicare coverage while reducing costs to taxpayers.”

February 13, 2013 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

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