Archive for February, 2013

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

New CBO Report Shows Medicare Leading the Way on Lowering Costs

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released a new budget outlook with updated data on expected federal costs of programs including Medicare and Medicaid over the next ten years. According to the CBO, Medicare spending in 2012 grew by only 3% – the lowest rate of growth in over a decade,[1] and a rate much lower than that of the private market.[2]  In fact, the Washington Post notes thatFrom the March 2010 baseline to the current baseline…[CBO] lowered estimates of federal spending for the two programs in 2020 by about $200 billion — by $126 billion for Medicare and by $78 billion for Medicaid, or by roughly 15 percent for each program”.[3]

The new baseline estimates indicate that Medicare is leading the way in controlling costs, and that Medicare has significantly contributed to lowering the nation’s deficit through innovative payment and delivery models as well as reductions in overpayments to private insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.[4]

CBO’s outlook illustrates that Medicare is not the problem, but rather the solution that policymakers should look to for addressing the real issue of overall health care costs affecting payers system-wide. While many look to slash Medicare and Medicaid in the name of deficit reduction through proposals like raising Medicare’s eligibility age or fragmenting the program through further means-testing, the CBO estimates reveal that such proposals are not rooted in fiscal policy. As the Post points out, “…$200 billion out of [Medicare and Medicaid] is nothing to sneeze at; that’s about double the revenue the government would generate by raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.”

The Center for Medicare Advocacy has long maintained that if policymakers are really concerned about strengthening Medicare and reducing the deficit, cutting benefits is the wrong approach – and new polling shows that over 60% of Americans agree.[5]  In fact, 85% of Americans strongly favor one of the Center’s Solutions to reduce the deficit: Requiring drug companies to give the government a better deal on medications for people on Medicare. Whether Congress chooses instead to protect the windfall profits of pharmaceutical companies rather than protecting people living on less than $22,000 a year and rely on Medicare to maintain their health remains to be seen.


 

[1] Congressional Budget Office, The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023, available at http://cbo.gov/publication/43907.
[2] http://www.healthcostinstitute.org/news-and-events/press-release-2011-health-care-cost-and-utilization-report
[3] Washington Post, Wonkblog: Three Ways CBO Expects Health Spending to Change. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/05/three-ways-cbo-expects-health-spending-to-change/
[4] Center for Medicare Advocacy, Medicare Facts and Fiction: Costs and Spending Edition, available at http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/2013/01/10/medicare-facts-and-fiction-costs-and-spending-edition/
[5] Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health: The Public’s Health Care Agenda for the 113th Congress, available at http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/8405.cfm.

February 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment


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