Posts filed under ‘Health Care’

Time to Renew, Not Repeal or Retreat!

Last week, an older adult wrote the Center for Medicare Advocacy:

“I will be on the streets at 66 years old without Medicare and Medicaid.  It’s as simple as that.  My money has all gone raising 3 granddaughters after their mother died.  There are millions of stories like mine everywhere.  We must help the least of us that had bad luck or are sick etc.” J.D., Medicare Beneficiary, Michigan

This week, on its first day, Congress passed a Resolution that begins the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Repealing ACA threatens access to health coverage and Medicaid for 20 million people. It would also reduce Medicare prescription drug coverage, reduce Medicare preventive benefits, and decrease the long-term solvency of the Medicare program.

ACA, Medicare and Medicaid are intertwined. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would also harm Medicare and Medicaid. It would harm the people, like Mrs. D, who raised her own family and is now raising her grandchildren.

Policy-makers need to know how their decisions impact real people. If you know someone who has benefited from the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and/or Medicaid –  Tell Your Story!

January 4, 2017 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

Medicare Beneficiary Costs Will Rise if Affordable Care Act is Repealed (And Private Medicare plans will be paid more)

With all the talk about repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare), many people miss the impact repeal would have on Medicare, older and disabled adults, and their families. ACA added preventive benefits to Medicare, decreased Part D cost-sharing for prescription drugs, and increased the long-term solvency of Medicare by about 11 years.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation:

” Full repeal would increase spending primarily by restoring higher payments to health care providers and Medicare Advantage plans. The increase in Medicare spending would likely lead to higher Medicare premiums, deductibles, and cost sharing for beneficiaries, and accelerate the insolvency of the Medicare Part A trust fund. Policymakers will confront decisions about the Medicare provisions in the ACA in their efforts to repeal and replace the law.”

http://kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/what-are-the-implications-of-repealing-the-affordable-care-act-for-medicare-spending-and-beneficiaries/

Policy-makers and people who rely on Medicare should think twice before supporting legislation that will give windfalls to private insurance companies, while reducing coverage and increasing costs for older and disabled people.

December 13, 2016 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Truth: Obamacare Helps Medicare – Pass It On

Speaker Paul Ryan is already in the news saying that because of “Obamacare” Medicare is going broke (Fox News, 11/13/2016). As a consequence, he says, he intends to bring back his plan to privatize Medicare and change it into a voucher system. Under his plan, individuals would be given a set amount to help pay premiums for insurance on the open market. This tired idea is not necessary and not best for Medicare beneficiaries or taxpayers – all of whom would pay more and get less under the Ryan plan. It would  “save” Medicare in name only.

The truth is Obamacare is good for Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries. It added about 10 years to the solvency of the Medicare trust fund, preventive benefits with no co-pays, and reduced prescription drug prices for beneficiaries. Surely Mr. Ryan knows this.

The truth matters.  Pass it on.

For more information see the Washington Post article that gives Ryan’s statement “4 Pinnochios,” their fact-checker’s worst rating for accuracy.

November 14, 2016 at 5:04 pm Leave a comment

Supreme!

The Supreme Court moved the arc towards justice and fair access to health care a bit closer with its decision in King v. Burwell (6/25/2015). The 6-3 decision, written by Chief Justice Roberts, sends a clear message that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.

As Justice Roberts stated, the intent of the Affordable Care Act is to build up, not diminish health insurance market places. Further, basic legal process calls for statutory provisions to be read to meet the overall intent of the law. This is not legal over-reach; it’s a standard taught in first-year law school. In King v. Burwell this long-accepted legal analysis results in the Court’s conclusion that subsidies to help people pay for health insurance are available in all Affordable Care Act markets, whether they are established by the individual state or federal government.

The Supreme Court followed basic legal analysis to support a basic human right – access to health care.
Now it’s our turn to make it happen.

June 26, 2015 at 4:46 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

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 Leave a comment

No Medicare For Mitt

How much does Mitt Romney really care about Medicare’s solvency? A lot. So much that he has decided not to enroll or use it at all – even though he’s turning 65.

What should we take from this? One thing for sure, Mitt Romney can afford a whole lot more financial risk than most Americans. Unless he has private insurance that will pay as the primary policy even after he’s Medicare eligible, Mr. Romney is accepting a huge liability if he intends to pay for his own heath care. Either way, he’s in a very different position than the vast majority of older and disabled Americans who MUST rely on Medicare to help pay for their health care and can not obtain insurance that will take its place.

Is Romney going to lead a battallion of well-to-do Americans out of Medicare? Leaving behind those who can not afford to pay either for their own care or for preciously rare primary insurance available to people eligible for Medicare. What a shame that would be.

Mr. Romney should enroll and rely on Medicare coverage like most Americans do when they turn 65. As a would-be national leader he should experience firsthand what works and what doesn’t, what coverage is and should be available. He should be part of the Medicare community and help it stay viable for all those who look to this national treasure to help pay for health care.

If Mr. Romney really cares about Medicare he should vote for it with his feet.

March 13, 2012 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

Tell the Truth!

This week, Republican presidential candidates vie for their party’s nomination in Florida, where millions of residents rely on Medicare as a health and economic lifeline for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, some candidates are scaring seniors – making clearly incorrect and harmful statements about the effect of the Affordable Care Act on Medicare.
(See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/santorum-warns-florida-seniors-that-obama-health-care-law-will-force-doctors-to-leave-medicare/2012/01/23/gIQAzX4VLQ_story.html.)

As the Center for Medicare Advocacy has reported since the passage of the landmark legislation, Health Care Reform does NOT hurt Medicare benefits. In fact, it expands and improves benefits for all people with Medicare while saving our nation and taxpayers billions of dollars over the next decade.

Most recently, former Senator Santorum made significant misstatements about Medicare. Contrary to his statements, people with Medicare are NOT losing their doctors and are NOT facing rationing because of Health Care Reform. In fact, the Medicare payment board he mentions does not even exist yet. When it does begin, it will be charged with keeping overall Medicare costs down and will be specifically prohibited from reducing benefits.

Additionally, Mr. Santorum’s desire to “fix” Medicare by privatizing it and giving taxpayer money to insurance companies makes you wonder who he really wants to help. Privatizing Medicare and repealing health reform, which he also recommends, won’t help Florida’s older people or their families, but it would provide a windfall to the insurance industry. The traditional community Medicare program has helped generations of Americans at far less cost than private insurance. And health care reform has already enhanced Medicare, adding preventive benefits with no cost-sharing and reducing costs for prescription drugs.

If the Senator is truly concerned for the care of Florida’s people who rely on Medicare and the program’s integrity, he should get the facts straight and speak the truth about Medicare and health care reform. To start, he can visit the Center’s “Solutions for Strengthening Medicare” for common-sense ways to improve and expand the program while saving billions of dollars. www.medicareadvocacy.org.

January 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

Six Solutions for Medicare Solvency and Reducing the Deficit

As lawmakers debate the future of Medicare as part of broader efforts to address the federal deficit, proposals have emerged that would have severe repercussions for beneficiaries and their families.[1] Sound solutions that would protect Medicare coverage while reducing costs to taxpayers have not been seriously addressed.  The six solutions we propose would accomplish both of these goals. 

These solutions, unlike many current proposals, do not shift costs to beneficiaries or completely restructure the Medicare program. They promote choice and competition while shoring up the solvency of Medicare. Adopting these solutions would be a responsible step in reducing our deficit the right way.

 1.  Negotiate Drug Prices with Pharmaceutical Companies

The Medicare prescription drug law passed in 2003 prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies.  These companies gained 47 million customers when Medicare began covering prescription drugs, but they did not have to adjust their prices in return.  Requiring the Secretary to negotiate drug prices for Medicare would save taxpayers billions of dollars – potentially over $200 billion over ten years.[2] Taxpayers currently pay nearly 70% more for drugs in the Medicare program than through the Veteran’s Administration, which has direct negotiating power.[3] Savings realized from reducing Medicare drug cuts could be used to improve benefits for beneficiaries and reduce the deficit.

 2.  Stop Paying Private Medicare Plans Anything More Than Traditional Medicare

According to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), Medicare pays, on average, 10% more for beneficiaries enrolled in private insurance (Medicare Advantage or MA plans) than for comparable beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare.[4] Despite these extra payments, beneficiaries in private plans who are in poor health, or who have chronic conditions, often have more limitations on coverage than they would under traditional Medicare.[5]

A large portion of the overpayments made to private plans actually goes to insurers rather than to benefit Medicare beneficiaries.[6] Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) changed the payment formula for Medicare Advantage plans, some plans will continue to be paid as much as 115% of the average traditional Medicare payment rate for their county when the new rates are fully implemented. MedPAC estimates that by 2017Medicare Advantage payment benchmarks will average 101% of traditional Medicare.  ACA also provides additional payments for plans that receive high quality ratings, increasing the likelihood that some MA plans will continue to be paid more than under traditional Medicare.  Reducing private MA payments to 100% of traditional Medicare, as MedPAC proposed before the enactment of ACA, will increase the solvency of the Medicare program and curb costs for taxpayers.  Private plans simply should not receive higher pay than traditional Medicare.

 3.  Include a Drug Benefit in Traditional Medicare

Offering a drug benefit in traditional Medicare would give beneficiaries a choice they do not now have, encourage people to stay in traditional Medicare, and save money for taxpayers.  It would also provide an alternative to unchecked private plans that leave many with unexpected high out-of-pocket costs. A drug benefit in traditional Medicare would protect beneficiaries against expensive and sometimes abusive marketing practices.  Further, traditional Medicare’s lower administrative costs could free up money for quality care, would result in lower drug prices for beneficiaries, and save taxpayers over $20 billion a year.[7]

4.  Extend Medicaid Drug Rebates to Medicare  Beneficiaries Who Are Dually Eligible or Part D Low-Income Subsidy Participants

Dual eligibles (people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid) comprise one-fourth of all Medicare drug users, and are among the most costly beneficiaries. Because Medicare, rather than Medicaid, covers most of their drugs and because Medicare cannot negotiate drug prices, their drugs are not eligible for the same rebates as they would be under the traditional Medicaid program. Extending these rebates for dually eligible people as well as for those who qualify for the Part D Low-Income Subsidy – the poorest Medicare beneficiaries –  would save approximately $135 billion over ten years.[8]

5.  Lower the Age of  Medicare Eligibility

People between 55 and 65 who are not disabled are currently unable to enroll in Medicare.  Lowering the age of eligibility to enroll this healthier population  in the Medicare program would add revenue from  people who will likely need less care and fewer services than older and disabled enrollees.

6.  Let the Affordable Care Act Do Its Job

The Affordable Care Act includes many measures to control costs as well as models for reform that will increase the solvency of the Medicare program and lower the deficit while protecting Medicare’s guaranteed benefits. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing or defunding ACA would add $230 billion to the deficit while ignoring the real issue of rising overall health care costs, which contribute heavily to the growing national debt. ACA includes strong measures to allow CMS to combat fraud, waste, and abuse that will bring down costs, as well as a variety of pilot and demonstration projects that aim to bring better care and quality to beneficiaries.[9] The bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Deficit Commission recommended that these projects be  implemented as quickly as possible.[10] Allowing ACA to do its job will create a foundation on which to build by improving care and holding down costs for taxpayers.

Conclusion 

“Protecting Medicare” by shifting costs from the federal government to beneficiaries and their families – whether through a voucher program or  spending caps or other draconian measures  – is a perversion of Medicare’s original intent: to protect older people and their families from illness and financial ruin due to health care costs.  The Center for Medicare Advocacy’s Six Solutions promote the financial welfare of Medicare and the country, without doing so at the expense of older and disabled people.


[1]See previous Alerts from the Center, “Why Medicaid Matters to Medicare Beneficiaries and Their Families”, “What Happens to Current Nursing Home Residents if House Budget Resolution Becomes Law?”
[2]National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, available at http://www.ncpssm.org/pdf/price_negotiation_part_d.pdf
[3]Center for Economic and Policy Research, “Negotiating Prices with Drug Companies Could Save Medicare $30 Billion”, March 2007, available at http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/negotiating-prices-with-drug-companies-could-save-medicare-30-billion.
[4]MedPAC, Report to the Congress, March 2011, Chapter 12 (March 2011), available at http://www.medpac.gov/documents/Mar11_EntireReport.pdf.
[5] Neuman P. Medicare Advantage: Key Issues and Implications for Beneficiaries. Testimony before the House Committee on the Budget, United States House of Representatives, June 28, 2007, available at http://www.allhealth.org/briefingmaterials/NeumanTestimony-830.pdf,
[6] Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. March 2009 Report to Congress, Chapter 3: The Medicare Advantage Program. P. 251-253, available at http://www.medpac.gov/chapters/Mar09_Ch03.pdf.
[7]Senator Dick Durbin, available at http://durbin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=555cc1e8-cc54-4ead-9d85-d5e6275b3789.
[8]
Office of Management and Buget Congressional Budget Office, Living Within Our Means (September, 2011);  Letter to Honorable Charles Rangel, available at http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/104xx/doc10464/hr3200.pdf
[9]See previous Alert from the Center, “Combating Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Health Care.”
[10]The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, “The Moment of Truth,” December 2010.

September 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm Leave a comment

Medicare and Jobs: Not Mutually Exclusive!

The more people have health insurance, including  Medicare, the more they stay healthy and are able to work.  If health insurance is provided by Medicare or health care reform or any avenue outside the tired employer-based system, it reduces costs for employers and encourages hiring.  Ask any employer.

Continuing to tie health insurance to employment only continues a system that COSTS jobs. It creates a disincentive for employers to hire.  It creates an incentive for the new employment reality:  Freelance, contract work, part-time, whatever you want to call the newly underemployed who do not have benefits and for whom employers do not pay into Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment, or Workers Comp.  This is a big problem for everyone involved, including individual workers, their families, AND the solvency of important programs that Americans value and that have lifted generations out of poverty and provided fair access to health care. 

Pay attention, people!  We not only can have Medicare and jobs – we will have more jobs if we  increase access to Medicare and health care.  Don’t raid Medicare to pay for jobs.  That will only reduce access to both.

September 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

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