Posts filed under ‘Myths’

Tax Cuts and Cuts to Medicare & the Social Compact

Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director Judith Stein was recently featured in the New York Times explaining how the devastating tax bills will lead to devastating cuts to Medicare and the social compact we all rely on.

Re “Republicans Are Coming for Your Benefits,” by Paul Krugman (column, Dec. 5):

Make no mistake: The tax cuts for corporations and wealthy people that Congress is determined to pass will lead to major cuts to health and economic security for the rest of us.

The Congressional Budget Office anticipates that Medicare alone will be cut by $25 billion in 2018, and the bills also set up future cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The tax legislation would also increase taxes for millions of households with yearly incomes below $200,000.

American families will be expected to pay the price for the trillions added to the federal deficit. Indeed, Senator Marco Rubio said recently that passage of the tax bill “will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare.”

Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Congress will have to cut so-called entitlement programs. That’s code for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Most people and families won’t benefit from these tax cuts. Yet most will be harmed by the spending cuts needed to pay for them. Instead of gutting the social compact Americans rely on, Congress should work to pass true tax reform that helps all Americans and invests in a better future for everyone.

December 12, 2017 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

The Rush to Destroy Medicare as We Know It

November 29, 2016 – Despite statements during the campaign that he would protect Medicare, the President-Elect is indicating otherwise with his selections of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to head the Department of Health & Human Services, and health consultant Seema Verma to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Price is an ardent foe of the Affordable Care Act, although it has extended the solvency of the Medicare Part A Trust Fund, closed gaps in prescription drug coverage, and expanded preventive benefits under Medicare.

Particularly threatening to Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries, says Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director, Judith Stein, “Rep. Price favors letting people opt-out of Medicare. Allowing beneficiaries – most likely the healthiest beneficiaries – to opt out of Medicare is an example of what Newt Gingrich in 1995 called letting the program ‘wither on the vine.’ The key to future solvency is a larger coverage pool, not a smaller one. That’s just how insurance works.”

In addition, Mr. Price’s proposals to rely on tax credits as incentives to purchase insurance ignore the fact that a huge number of families don’t make enough income for such credits to be worthwhile. Further, CMS nominee Verma favors Health Savings Accounts – another private option that would break up the Medicare community. “All of these proposals,” continued Ms. Stein, “will be sold to Medicare beneficiaries as ‘preserving’ and ‘protecting’ Medicare. In fact, they will end Medicare and turn it over to the private insurance industry.”

 

November 29, 2016 at 5:44 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

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

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

Medicare Lessons for Senator Cruz

Alice Bers, JD – Litigation Attorney

Senator Ted Cruz’s long speech on the Senate floor against “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act)might have been a remarkable spectacle and certainly led to a lot of press coverage. But many of his statements do real harm. Declarations like “you don’t want an IRS agent deciding if your mom lives or dies,” lead to people calling our office in fear that they will lose their health insurance. (For the record, people on Medicare will stay on Medicare.) The relentless efforts by Senator Cruz and others to turn people against Obamacare, to the point of telling them not to sign up for health insurance they may desperately need, brought to mind a contrast with the implementation of Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit that was passed under President George W. Bush.

In 2006 people were starting to enroll in Medicare Part D. It was not the drug benefit that many of us in the Medicare advocacy world wanted. It was administered by numerous private insurance companies rather than being a straightforward, public Medicare benefit. Its structure was difficult to explain, with a big “donut hole” that left many vulnerable people with high out of pocket costs. It prohibited Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices from manufacturers. We voiced these complaints and advocated for a different kind of drug coverage. But Part D was the drug benefit we got. It was the law, and we knew people on Medicare who were in desperate need of prescription drug coverage, even if that coverage was imperfect. Many of us had clients who split pills, skipped doses, or had to choose between medicine and food.

So we went to trainings, gave talks at senior centers, helped people choose plans, and helped resolve problems that prevented some from getting their medications smoothly. Once Part D got started – and it was a rocky start – we even filed lawsuits to make sure that people were actually getting the Part D benefits they were supposed to get, improving the existing program. We did not try to prevent Part D’s implementation, “defund” it, spread falsehoods about it, or try to make it fail.. We tried to make sure people could make the best possible use of Part D, because people needed their medications. We did and still do advocate for changes to Part D (like closing the donut hole, finally being accomplished by Obamacare!). Today there are millions of people who need health insurance and cannot get it. Obamacare will help them get that insurance. (Luckily, there are also people working hard to enroll the uninsured.) This new program may not be perfect, but obstructing its implementation, scaring away people who truly need insurance coverage, placing political gain over the urgent medical needs of real people – those tactics should be out of bounds.

September 27, 2013 at 5:27 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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