Posts filed under ‘Fiscal Responsibility’

Medicare Is Withering on the Vine

In 1995 Newt Gingrich predicted that privatization efforts would lead Medicare to wither on the vine. He said it was unwise to get rid of Medicare right away, but envisioned a time when it would no longer exist because beneficiaries would move to private insurance plans.

Well … that’s what’s happening.  Not just by happenstance, but rather according to a determined, strategic plan. The plan has included the following:

  1. Government subsidies to private plans, renamed “Medicare Advantage,” ranging from 14% –  2% above traditional Medicare per-beneficiary costs;
  2. Additional benefits added to private Medicare Advantage, benefits that weren’t added, and aren’t allowed, in  traditional Medicare;
  3. Part D prescription drug coverage wrapped into Medicare Advantage, but not into traditional Medicare;
  4. Increases in traditional Medicare Part B premiums, especially for the middle class;
  5. Limits on access to Medigap insurance to supplement traditional Medicare and on benefits for those who can obtain a Medigap policy.

It didn’t take a crystal ball.  It took a vision, planning and persistence.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy also has vision, planning and persistence. We do all we can to keep Medicare focused on the needs of older and disabled people, not the insurance industry. We speak out with expertise and with  the stories of real people.

With your support, we’ll keep insisting that Medicare is fully present for the families that rely on it – now and in the future. We’re ready to keep Medicare from withering on the vine.

Will you help?

November 28, 2016 at 4:48 pm Leave a comment

Telling It Like It Is: The Ryan Plan Would Kill Medicare

The title of Paul Krugman’s piece in today’s NY Times says it all. The Medicare Killers tells the truth about the Trump/Ryan plan to turn back the clock on Medicare and give it away to the private  insurance industry. A good deal for insurance companies, but a very bad deal for the 60 million older and disabled people who access health care through Medicare. Importantly, as Krugman writes, this is not necessary.  It’s just the latest ploy to privatize Medicare.  Call it what it is.

Help the Center for Medicare Advocacy speak out against false claims and misinformation that could rob older people and people with disabilities of necessary health care – and diminish Medicare for generations to come. Spread the word. Tell the truth about Medicare.

November 18, 2016 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

New GAO Report re: Overpayments to MA Plans

We are troubled by both the scale of estimated improper payments to Medicare Advantage plans due to inappropriate upcoding – at a rate of 9.5% or $14.1 billion in 2013 – and CMS’ lack of progress on recouping and deterring such payments.

We hope that policymakers who protect MA profit at all costs, while at the same time often proposing to shift more costs on to the majority of beneficiaries in traditional Medicare – take heed of this GAO report and ensure that the recommendations are implemented.

Read the GAO report at: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/676441.pdf

May 9, 2016 at 8:16 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

Hold The Applause

We agree it’s important to find a permanent solution to the physician payment formula (“Sustainable Growth Rate” or SGR), but the Bill passed by the House of Representatives today is not the answer. It isn’t balanced. It asks too much from beneficiaries without providing enough in return. It asks nothing from pharmaceutical or insurance companies. It continues the ever-increasing privatization of Medicare by increasing costs for beneficiaries for traditional Medicare and Medigap plans. It adds unnecessary costs for the Medicare program and taxpayers.

Of the portion of the SGR costs that will be off set, roughly half (approximately $35 billion of the total $70 billion over 10 years) would come from Medicare beneficiaries through changes that will increase their out-of-pocket costs for health care, including:
• Adding deductibles to Medigap plans purchased by new Medicare beneficiaries starting in 2020;
• Further means-testing premiums for higher-income beneficiaries; and
• Overall increases in Part B premiums.

While the SGR package would make the low-income, Qualified Individual (QI), program permanent, which we strongly support, and would minimally increase and temporarily extend important funding for beneficiary education and outreach, it does not address other key issues that serve as barriers to care. For example, instead of repealing the annual outpatient therapy caps, the process to seek an exception to the cap is extended for another two years. Instead of addressing hospital Observation Status, the Bill further extends enforcement of the so-called “two-midnight” rule.

In short, Medicare beneficiaries would pay too much, with too little in return. Major drug and insurance industries pay nothing, and stand to gain a great deal. As the SGR debate moves to the Senate, we hope further balance and improvements for beneficiaries will be made.

March 26, 2015 at 9:22 pm Leave a comment

2015 Marks the 50th Anniversary of Medicare – Help Ensure its Future

Since 1965, Medicare has opened doors to health care and increased economic security for hundreds of millions of older people, people with disabilities, and their families.

2015 will also usher in a new Congress. Many of its leaders and members will likely champion plans to further privatize Medicare. These proposals will likely surface despite increasing reports that Medicare costs and the federal deficit are declining, and that traditional Medicare costs less than private Medicare. Once again we will likely hear about plans to transform Medicare to “Premium Support” (a voucher towards the purchase of private insurance). We will probably read about proposals to increase the age of Medicare eligibility, decrease the value of Supplemental Medicare Insurance (Medigap), redesign Medicare to make it “simpler” (but less useful for most beneficiaries). We urge you to listen carefully for these and other such plans. And respond!

Since 1986, the Center for Medicare Advocacy has been on the front lines, advocating for people who depend on Medicare and for a comprehensive Medicare program for future generations. As we mark Medicare’s 50th anniversary, help us ensure its promise to advance access to healthcare. Help us explain what’s true and what’s not, where real savings exist, and when the true interests of beneficiaries are at stake. Help us ensure a real Medicare program lasts for another 50 years.

Be part of our Medicare Truth Squad. Ask us if you have questions. Spread the word – on Twitter, Facebook – in conversations! The future of a comprehensive Medicare program may depend on it.

December 30, 2014 at 6:56 pm Leave a comment

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We provide effective, innovative opportunities to impact federal Medicare and health care policies and legislation in order to advance fair access to Medicare and quality health care.

Judith A. Stein, Executive Director

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