Posts Tagged ‘Medicare’

Happy Anniversary to Medicare

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Forty-five years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law, establishing the foundation for today’s Medicare, which provides more than 44 million seniors and people with disabilities with guaranteed health care benefits and higher quality care than ever before.

“The signing of Medicare forged a promise with older Americans — that those who have contributed a lifetime to our national life and economy can enjoy their golden years with peace of mind and the security of reliable medical insurance,” wrote President Obama in a Presidential proclamation issued today, which proclaims July 30, 2010 as the 45th Anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid.

This year’s passage of the Affordable Care Act represents another step forward for the Medicare program. The law ensures that Medicare beneficiaries will continue to receive their guaranteed benefits and will provide new benefits and lower costs, including closing the prescription drug coverage gap, eliminating co-pays and cost-sharing for most preventive screenings and providing greater coordination of care among providers.

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The Facts of Reform- Part One: Medicare

Friday, December 4th, 2009

The American Heart Association is continuing to review the Senate health care reform legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, we know you’re hearing many confusing and contradictory claims about this legislation, and we’d like to serve as a resource to you in understanding the facts about health care reform.

Question: I’ve heard that the bill will cut Medicare benefits and deprive seniors of the care they need. Is this true?

Answer: Nearly half of all people who have heart disease or stroke are over age 60 so the American Heart Association clearly understands and believes in the need to protect Medicare. Our assessment of the Senate bill, relying on the various sources of objective analysis of its provisions, is that it would not cut Medicare benefits and would instead improve coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. For instance, the Senate bill would eliminate cost-sharing for preventive services for Medicare beneficiaries, provide a new annual “wellness visit” for seniors, and reduce the coverage gap (or “donut hole”) in prescription drug coverage that many Medicare beneficiaries currently face. We’ve advocated for each of these improvements in the Medicare program.

Unfortunately, however, Medicare is growing at an unsustainable rate, and without any action, the Medicare trust fund is projected to become insolvent in 2017. The Senate bill therefore attempts to slow down the rate of growth of Medicare by reducing Medicare spending by about $500 billion over 10 years. According to the Medicare actuary, this will extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by up to 5 years. In addition, even with these savings, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that Medicare spending per beneficiary will still increase by 6% every year under the Senate bill.

1. The Senate bill accomplishes the Medicare savings in three major ways:
It reduces Medicare’s current overpayments to the private health insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans. According to the independent commission that advises Congress on Medicare payment policy, Medicare Advantage plans are overpaid, on average, by 14 percent, compared to traditional Medicare fee-for-service. By paying Medicare Advantage plans rates that are closer to what is paid for fee-for-service, Medicare will save $118 billion over the next 10 years.

2. The bill saves nearly $200 billion over 10 years by reducing the annual pay increases that hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers receive. But even with this savings, Medicare providers will still receive a slight increase in their reimbursement rates each year.

3. The bill saves about $100 billion over 10 years by reducing waste and inefficiency in Medicare and improving the quality of care that Medicare beneficiaries receive. Medicare currently pays based on the quantity of care delivered, rather than rewarding the quality of care. For example, the independent commission that advises Congress on Medicare policy has estimated that nearly 18 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who are hospitalized need to be re-hospitalized within 30 days. By encouraging the provision of better follow-up care and helping to prevent the need for re-admissions, the Senate bill would save $7 billion over 10 years.

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Your Health Care Reform Questions Answered- Part 3

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

There are lots of rumors flying around and plenty of misinformation available regarding the health care reform proposals currently before Congress. Today’s questions address some of the confusing things you may have been hearing.

Q: Will health care reform lead to a “government takeover” of health care or result in “socialized medicine,” as some claim?
A: No. The bills before Congress preserve our nation’s current employer-based private health insurance system, with public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid continuing to be available as a safety net for older and low-income Americans. The “government takeover” concern is largely based on the public health insurance option that may be available as a choice under some of the bills. It’s very important to note, however, that each person, not the government, would decide whether a private plan or a public plan is the right plan for him or her – if the public plan choice is available at all.

Q: Will health reform lead to rationing of care, as some have said?
A: No. This concern is based on provisions in the bill that authorize “comparative effectiveness research.” This is research that evaluates which drugs or other treatments work best for different medical conditions and different patients. The American Heart Association supports this research because it will provide doctors and their patients with more and better information to help them decide the best course of treatment. Ultimately, however, doctors and patients − not insurance companies or the government −will decide what treatment is best.

Q. I’ve heard claims that health care reform will deny older Americans end-of-life care. What is this about?
A. Nothing could be further from the truth. The House health reform bill includes a provision that would provide reimbursement to physicians who provide counseling to Medicare patients about the care they choose to receive if they have a living will or an advance directive. These consultations are not mandatory, occur only upon the request of the patient, and in fact are designed to make certain that the patient’s wishes come before those of insurance companies or hospitals.

Stay tuned for answers to more questions over the next few weeks. In the meantime, share your questions with us by commenting on this post!

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