Medicare Has Already Been Privatized. And That’s Not Good News.

As Drew Altman of Kaiser Family Foundation wrote in the Wall Street Journal (4/15/2016):
“To some degree many changes long sought by conservatives are already happening incrementally: More than half of Medicaid beneficiaries are in private managed-care plans. Almost one-third of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in private Medicare Advantage Plans this year, rather than the traditional program, and the share is projected to grow to more than 40% by 2026. The same is true of private health insurance. Conservatives complain about the ACA, but their preferred vision of health insurance–with high deductibles and lots of “skin in the game” plans–is dominating in the marketplace. The trend is reinforced by many of the policies being sold in the ACA’s insurance marketplaces.”

April 18, 2016 at 1:40 pm Leave a comment

2016 National Voices of Medicare Summit and Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture

Join us as we celebrate 30 years of Medicare advocacy  and plan for the future!

April 1, 2016
​8:30 am – 5:30 pm

Kaiser Family Foundation
Barbara Jordan Conference Center
1330 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

We are delighted to announce that Senator Jay Rockefeller will join us at the 2016 National Voices of Medicare Summit to speak briefly, answer questions and personally introduce Ms. Tamera Luzzatto, who will be giving this year’s Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture.

And this year’s program is bigger than ever, with panels including:

  • Good Morning Medicare!

After a brief welcome, the morning will open with an address from, and an opportunity to talk with Sean Cavanaugh, the Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  After his talk, Mr. Cavanaugh will be available for a question and answer period.

Sean Cavanaugh, Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • Best Practices in Advocacy and Caregiving

What practices are working to ensure older people and people with disabilities have access to, and coverage for, necessary health care?  This panel will bring together leading advocates with national leaders representing caregivers and individuals needing care.  The group will explore best practices from multiple perspectives within the health care delivery system.

Moderator: Toby S. Edelman, Senior Policy Attorney, Center for Medicare Advocacy
Leslie Frane, Healthcare Director, Service Employees International Union
Sarita Gupta, Co-Director, Caring Across Generations
Sarah Lenz Lock, Senior Vice President for Policy, AARP
Ted Thompson, CEO, Parkinson’s Action Network

  • A Values-Based Approach to Medicare Redesign

“Medicare Reform” is a term we hear frequently, but generally that seems to mean cutting benefits and increasing costs to beneficiaries.  What would Medicare redesign look like if it was focused on both serving beneficiaries and ensuring a stable and comprehensive Medicare program?  We’ve assembled a panel of national Medicare policy experts with decades of combined experience in areas of health care financing, public policy, and Medicare reform.  The panel will explore various factors that must be weighed in developing a truly consumer-focused redesign.

Moderator: David Lipschutz, Senior Policy Attorney, Center for Medicare Advocacy
Judy Feder, Professor & Former Dean, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University
Marilyn Moon, Director, Center on Aging, American Institutes for Research 
Patricia Neuman, Senior Vice President, Kaiser Family Foundation
Judith Stein, Executive Director, Center for Medicare Advocacy

  • Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture – Introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller

In recognition of her extraordinary public service in advancing access to affordable health and long term care in her work with Senator Rockefeller, the Pepper Commission, and former Senator Hillary Clinton, the Center for Medicare Advocacy is honored to have Ms. Tamera Luzzatto, Vice President of Government Relations at The Pew Charitable Trusts delivering this year’s Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecture.

  • Recent Advocacy Highlights & Challenges

What’s happening today in advocacy for older people and people with disabilities?  What’s on the horizon?  What challenges are beneficiaries and their advocates facing today and what are they preparing to face in the near future?  From challenges accessing necessary benefits, equipment and oral health care to efforts regarding audiology and hearing aid coverage, this panel will assess the current landscape faced by advocates and the people they serve.

Moderator: Kathy Holt, Associate Director/Attorney, Center for Medicare Advocacy
Ben Belton, Senior Advisor to the Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Peter Thomas, Principal, Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville
Larry Coffee, DDS, Founder & CEO, Dental Lifeline Network
Clare Durret, Executive Director, Team Gleason
Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

  • Show Time!  30 Years of Medicare Advocacy

Based on the Weekly NPR news quiz show, this interactive panel is guaranteed to be both informative and fun.  Using a “Lightning Round” format, it will review the last 30 years of Medicare and advocacy aimed at supporting a strong Medicare program and meeting the needs of beneficiaries.  Attorneys from the Center for Medicare Advocacy will start us out, but be forewarned — you could be called upon!

Moderator: Judith Stein, Founder/Executive Director, Center for Medicare Advocacy
Center Attorneys and Colleagues

  • Be sure to stay, as a special guest kicks off the Center’s 30th Anniversary to close the day.

And of course, you will hear real voices of Medicare beneficiaries, and enjoy plenty of networking opportunities.

Register now ($225)

March 15, 2016 at 8:06 pm Leave a comment

We Reiterate: Why Let it Continue?

The January 4th New York Times story, “The Hidden Financial Incentives Behind Your Shorter Hospital Stay,” describes how hospital stays classified under “Observation Status” are skewing admission and readmission data. As Dr. Jha states in the article, Observation Status is driven by incentives for the hospital. This is an ever-increasing phenomena in which Medicare deems patients as “outpatients,” although they are in the hospitals for days.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy has worked for many years to end the harm that Observation Status causes people who rely on Medicare. We have helped hundreds of beneficiaries and families, assembled a broad national coalition to support legislation to fix the problem, and filed lawsuits on behalf of elderly patients.

“Outpatient” hospital observation status limits access to necessary post-hospital nursing home care, alters public health data regarding hospital admissions and readmissions, increases Part B costs and cost-sharing, and creates lengthy delays in the Medicare appeals system. With all this harm, one must ask: Why does the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services insist on continuing this dreadful policy?

January 21, 2016 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

Why Continue Observation Status?

The December 2, 2015 Wall Street Journal story “Medicare Rules Reshape Hospital Admissions” described how hospital stays classified under “observation status” can lead to big bills for patients without their knowledge.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy has worked for many years to eliminate, or at least reduce, the harm that observation status causes people who rely on Medicare.  We have developed self-help materials,http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/self-help-packet-for-medicare-observation-status/, assisted beneficiaries and families, brought together a coalition of national organizations to support federal legislation that would fix the problem, and filed lawsuits.

“Outpatient” hospital observation status is limiting access to necessary nursing home care, skewing public health data regarding hospital admissions and readmissions, increasing Part B costs and cost-sharing, and creating lengthy delays in the Medicare appeals system. With all this harm, one must ask: Why does the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services insist on continuing this dreadful policy?

December 14, 2015 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

Proposed Budget Seeks to Reduce Dramatic Rise in Part B Costs: Advocates Remain Concerned About Underlying Causes

October 27, 2015 – Congress is considering the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. This proposed budget agreement would reduce an expected spike in the Medicare Part B deductible and premiums for 2016. The premium increase, expected to be over 50% for beneficiaries who do not already have premiums taken from their Social Security, will instead be about 15%. Similarly, the Part B deductible would increase approximately $20.00 rather than the previously projected $75.00.  The cost of limiting the increases will be paid for by a loan from general revenues. Medicare beneficiaries will pay back the loan over time from set increases to future premiums.

“While we have concerns about the way in which the Part B cost-sharing resolution is paid for, we are glad people who rely on Medicare can breathe a bit easier – knowing their premiums and deductible will not skyrocket next year,” said Judith Stein, founder and executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

Although relieved that Congress seems poised to address next year’s Medicare Part B cost-sharing, the Center for Medicare Advocacy remains concerned about the expenses underlying these increases. “We continue to urge law-makers to join Congressman Courtney in asking Secretary Burwell to investigate and fix the underlying reasons for the huge increase in Part B costs. Much of the increase seems to come from parallel increases in billing inpatient hospital care to Part B through the use of so-called ‘outpatient’ Observation Status.”

 

October 27, 2015 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

Solution to Medicare Part B Cost Increases? Look at “Observation Status”

If Congress and the Administration truly seek ways to limit Medicare premiums and deductibles (Robert Pear, 10/6/2015, and 10/15/2015), they ought to look at the Medicare agency’s hospital Observation Status policy.

A major cause of the Part B increase is likely the parallel increase in so-called “outpatient” observation status. The result of this misguided policy is that unprecedented amounts of hospital care are being billed to Medicare Part B, rather than Part A. This was never intended by the law. In fact Part A is called “Hospital Insurance” in the Medicare Act. Yet, thousands of patients stay days in hospitals only to learn they were not admitted as inpatients. Instead, they are classified as outpatients on observation status. One of the myriad consequences of this policy is that Part B expenses are sky rocketing – increasing Part B premiums and deductibles and cost shifting to Medicare beneficiaries.

October 15, 2015 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment

Medicare is 50!

The 50th anniversary of Medicare has given us an opportunity to reflect on all it has accomplished to advance the health and well-being of families throughout the country. It also reminds us what could have been better – and what could still be improved.

We are thankful for the vision and fortitude of President Johnson and policy-makers in 1964 who insisted on a national program and refused its funding to segregated hospitals. We thank the 1972 Congress that added people with disabilities to those who receive Medicare coverage. We are grateful to those who expanded home health coverage in 1980 and added hospice coverage in 1982. We honor the years between 1965 and 1990 when Americans were willing to pay slightly more in payroll taxes to expand benefits. We recognize recent improvements to Medicare included in the Affordable Care Act – adding value to Part D drug coverage, new and no-cost preventive benefits to Part B, and years to the solvency of the Part A Trust Fund.

We remember the short-lived Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, which greatly added to coverage for nursing home care, added a respite benefit, and Part B drug coverage – and we regret its repeal. We are grateful for the 2006 addition of drug coverage, but regret it is only available through private plans. We appreciate all the support for Medicare and its anniversary, but regret the ever-increasing fragmenting and privatizing of the program. We are grateful for all Medicare has done to expand access to health care for older and disabled people, but fear it is becoming more oriented towards providers, insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and less focused on the needs and financial abilities of Medicare beneficiaries.

We celebrate Medicare with a renewed commitment to enhancing the well-being of older people, people with disabilities and their families. We call on those in power to honor Medicare by:

• Including a prescription drug benefit in Part B;
• Insisting on the best price for all Medicare-covered medications;
• Committing to parity between private Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare payments;
• Adding dental, hearing aide, and vision coverage;
• Developing a long-term services and support benefit; and
• Ensuring access to a fair and accurate appeals system.

Medicare has been an incredible success. It’s our turn to ensure it continues, in more than name only, and opens doors to health care and economic security for future generations.

July 30, 2015 at 2:21 pm Leave a comment

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