Posts filed under ‘Myths’

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

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

It Isn’t That Complicated: You Don’t Have to Improve

As the New York Times reports today, people don’t have to improve to qualify for Medicare-covered care in most settings.  Unfortunately, older and disabled people are constantly told otherwise – and refused care as a result. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could fix this pretty easily.  Just issue a CMS Ruling stating definitively and clearly that skilled nursing and therapy can be covered to maintain a patient’s condition or slow deterioration.  It’s the law. Disseminate the Ruling to all Medicare providers and adjudicators.  Post it on the CMS website.

If there’s the will, there’s the way.

 

 

September 12, 2016 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

As We’ve Been Saying!

Finally, the Center’s long-time concerns about costly misuse of public Medicare funds may be gaining attention. For years we’ve been pointing to Medicare overpayments for prescription drugs and to private Medicare Advantage plans. These huge expenditures help pharmaceutical and insurance industries, not older and disabled people. If these costs were reigned in, billions of dollars would be freed to cover necessary health care and sustain the Medicare program. This week these matters received some much needed publicity:

Prescription Drug Pricing

An excellent and well-timed (given #Epi-gate) article appeared in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association discussing the reason drug costs are so high in the U.S. According to the article, the major cause is the “granting of government-protected monopolies to drug manufacturers, combined with restriction of price negotiation at a level not observed in other industrialized nations.” Thus, state the authors, “providing greater opportunities for meaningful price negotiation by governmental payers” is one of the conclusions. A “possible solution” is described as “Price negotiation: Enable Medicare to negotiate drug prices for individual Part D plans and to exclude coverage for expensive products that add limited clinical benefit; experiment with value-based drug pricing and rational prescribing reimbursement models for Medicare.” For more information, see http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2545691#.V8OQC8OH7Hg.twitter

Medicare Advantage Overpayments

NPR recently published an article from the Center for Public Integrity entitled “Medicare Advantage Audits Reveal Pervasive Overcharges” (August 29, 2016) by Fred Schulte. The article reports on recently-released federal audits of 37 Medicare Advantage (MA) plans relating to overpayments made in 2007. According to the author, these “audits reveal how some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated, often by overstating the severity of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and depression.”
As discussed in previous Alerts, including one in May 2016 entitled “Government Auditor Finds Billions in Improper Payments to Medicare Advantage Plans Coupled with Inadequate Oversight by Federal Regulator,” MA “upcoding” – when an MA plan reports an enrollee as being more sick than they actually are in order to obtain a higher risk-adjusted payment from the Medicare program – remains a problem that policymakers must address, particularly as they weigh policy proposals that would shift additional costs on to Medicare beneficiaries.

August 31, 2016 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment

NY Times Reports Unfair Medicare Advantage Coverage Denials

This is a scandal. Medicare Advantage plans continue to fail beneficiaries and cost taxpayers. Why don’t more people get it – or act to do something about it?

For more, see:
U.S. Finds Many Failures in Medicare Health Plans
“Federal audits found many coverage denials for medical services and prescription drugs are poorly…” @nytimes http://t.co/59LKyqkJSe

October 15, 2014 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment

Trustees Report: Medicare IS Solvent

The Medicare trustees reported good news for Medicare today. The Trustees’ annual report finds the life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended another four years since their 2013 report, and an additional 13 years from their last projection before the Affordable Care Act passed. The annual report[1] confirms that Medicare continues to provide cost-effective health insurance for more than 50 million older and disabled beneficiaries – and that the Affordable Care Act strengthened Medicare.

Medicare provides health insurance and access to needed care for most Americans age 65 or older and those with significant disabilities. The 2014 Trustees Report confirms that Medicare is working well and will be in fine shape for the foreseeable future. The Trustees conclude benefits are expected to be payable in full until 2030, four more years than they projected in May 2013.

“The Medicare Trustees’ favorable forecast is attributable to slowing health care costs, the recovering economy and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The Trustees Report answers skeptics and demonstrates that Medicare is healthy. It continues to be an efficient, cost-effective program that Americans can count on for future generations. It should be protected as one of our great success stories.” said Judith Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

The positive outlook for the Medicare Trust Fund is certainly good news. There are opportunities to further improve Medicare’s well-being without reducing benefits or cutting services. Congress could secure the program’s future even more by reducing wasteful overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans, and by obtaining the best rates possible for prescription drugs.

[1] Read the full report at http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/ReportsTrustFunds/index.html.

July 28, 2014 at 10:55 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 and … the Military?

I read David Brooks’ New York Times editorial yesterday with dismay. It seems Medicare is not only to blame for the federal deficit, but also for Sen. Hagel’s nomination and the end of America’s military might. I have been representing Medicare beneficiaries and studying Medicare since 1977. Even I was surprised by these positions.

The determination to slash Medicare seems never ending. One hardly knows where to begin responding. But we need to try, before it’s too late. Before the next deficit cutting activities get underway, we need to set the record straight.

The basic, public Medicare program was a cost-effective success. Medicare brought access to health care to older people who were refused private health insurance. It dramatically decreased poverty among older people. Unnecessary payments to private Medicare plans, unrestricted payments for prescription drugs and policies aimed at privatizing Medicare increased the program’s costs exponentially. These expensive provisions should be the targets for those whose true goal is to reduce the deficit. If the will exists, there is a way to reduce costs while preserving Medicare’s promise.
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Watch this short video from the Kaiser Family Foundation: http://www.kff.org/medicare/medicare-timeline2.cfm. It will remind you why Medicare matters.

January 9, 2013 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

The Medicare Debate

Medicare was in the spotlight in the Vice Presidential debate as the candidates outlined their respective plans for the program millions of American families rely on. Unfortunately, some pervasive myths were also highlighted regarding the impact of health care reform and the Ryan plan on Medicare and the 49 million Americans who count on it. [Check out the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s Facebook and Twitter pages (Follow @CMAorg) for a full list of Medicare Myths and Facts from the debate.]

One of the myths that was repeated during the debate is the familiar claim that the Affordable Care Act cuts Medicare by $700 billion – the same claim that has been debunked time and again. In fact the $700 billion in savings are largely a result of rolling back unnecessary, wasteful overpayments to private Medicare insurance plans. Congressman Ryan’s budget plans have included these same $700 billion reductions; however, instead of ending overpayments to private insurance companies with the savings, Ryan’s plans would give private insurance companies an even larger share of Medicare expenditures.

The Ryan Plan to end Medicare would provide each individual with an annual allowance with which to purchase a health plan in the private market, would raise costs for current and future beneficiaries, and would repeal important Medicare benefit improvements, added by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA Medicare improvements include extending the solvency of the Medicare Trust fund, lowering prescription drug costs, adding new coverage for preventive services, and eliminating cost-sharing for most such services, such as mammograms and prostate screenings.

Mr. Ryan and other policy-makers often talk about waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare. Yet too often these same policy-makers plan to extend private Medicare to restructure the entire Medicare program. They claim this will save money for Medicare, taxpayers, and beneficiaries. But a new study, once again, confirms just the opposite.

In a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Health Services, researchers report that “Medicare has overpaid private insurers by $282.6 billion, or 24.4 percent of all MA payments, since 1985. In 2012 alone…MA plans are being overpaid by $34.1 billion, or 6.2 per¬cent of total Medicare spending”. This means nearly a quarter of all payments to private insurance companies in Medicare, subsidized with taxpayer dollars, have been unnecessary overpayments that have gone to profit margins and administrative costs, not health care services. Talk about waste!

The authors of the International Journal study conclude that the decades-long experiment with privatizing Medicare should end. Instead, policies should be developed to focus on the real issues of overall health costs and access to coverage. However, if the Ryan plan takes effect, the wastefully expensive private Medicare program will be expanded. Meanwhile, the cost-effective traditional Medicare program will be allowed to wither, and beneficiaries will become responsible for dramatic increases in out-of-pocket costs.

Mr. Ryan’s plan continues wasteful overpayments to private insurance companies at the expense of beneficiaries and taxpayers. It is not a plan to preserve Medicare, protect older and disabled people, or reduce health care costs.

October 12, 2012 at 8:35 pm Leave a comment

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