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October 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

Medicare Mulls the Politics and Policies of End-of-Life Care Planning

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has not publicly discussed whether it will agree to cover end-of-life discussions, but a decision is expected this fall. If Medicare adopts the AMA recommendations, it will set the standard for private insurers, encouraging many more doctors to engage in these conversations. Medicare’s approval of billing codes could potentially affect all 50 million Medicare beneficiaries.
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The study shows that patients who could benefit from intensive care are waiting hours and even days in the emergency room and nearby community hospitals because intensive care unit beds are occupied by patients receiving futile care. The study, conducted at UCLA, found some patients died while waiting for an ICU bed.

September 2014
Ambord

Reports of Your Death May Be Premature – And They May Terminate Your Social Security

According to Kelly Erb (Forbes Magazine tax specialist) anyone who is declared dead may find it impossible to get loans or mortgages, get a driver’s license, or start SS or disability when they become eligible. Bank accounts slam shut along with your access to your funds. “It can be literally, a living nightmare.”

Schlein
Washington Watch

Sovaldi – This New $8 Billion Wonder Drug Will Only Cost You $1,000 (per pill)

In 2009, in order to get the Affordable Care bill through Congress, lawmakers dropped a key provision that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices. The provision, included in the president’s original plan, could have saved Medicare billions of dollars. But it was dropped as a way of getting the powerful pharmaceutical industry aboard in support of the health care reform legislation.
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The trustees were careful to avoid the ongoing debate over the extent to which Medicare’s spending slowdown can be attributed to changes in the 2010 health care reform law. But whatever the reason, the slowdown has been dramatic. Medicare, which covered an estimated 52.3 million people in 2013, spent $582.9 billion and for the second year in a row, beneficiary costs were largely unchanged.

August 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

Medicare Slow Flow – Diagnoses, Disbursements and Decisions Slog On

Worldwide, lung cancer is the top cancer killer, with more than 156,000 American patients dying each year, mainly because it’s usually found too late for treatments to do much good. Most of those deaths involve seniors and most are due to smoking.
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“We have elderly or disabled Medicare clients waiting as long as two years for a hearing and nine months for a decision.” The kinds of cases are usually appealing the denial of coverage for home care, nursing home care, ambulance trips, challenging observation classification and other services.
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While Medicare plans to eliminate a regulatory hurdle intended to reduce fraud and abuse in Medicare home health claims, that hurdle appears to be stopping some elderly patients from getting the care they need.

July 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

Important Tips to Save Even More on Medicare Charges to You

Do you feel overwhelmed by the number of choices you have when it comes time to choose a Medicare health or prescription drug plan? You are not alone and according to a new study, a large number of seniors stick with the same plan – even if it’s not the best one for them. In some places around the country, beneficiaries can select from an average of 18 health plans and 31 prescription drug plans. In South Florida, beneficiaries have 88 plan choices altogether.

 

Analysts suggest that price, particularly monthly premiums, are what seems to be affecting seniors’ choices. One reason why they have not moved to the best-rated plans is because there are so few of them. For 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded five-star ratings to 14 health plans and 5 prescription drug plans.

June 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

New Medicare Benefits You Should Know About...But Probably Don’t

Starting this year, the key criterion for coverage is a demonstrated need for skilled care –  even if the patient isn't expected to improve. That means patients already enrolled in Medicare Part A (hospitalization) who need care to maintain their current condition but aren't likely to improve now qualify for Medicare's standard benefits.

Stone

Exit Edison

Do I need to buy rubber gloves to change a halogen in a lamp? Will the squiggles in a CFL fit under a lampshade? Won’t an LED outlive me, and I’ll have to pay a high cost for just the unopened package? I’m a senior! I’m just not used to paying $10 or more for a light bulb guaranteed to continue to shine until my grandchildren are aged.

May 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

Tracking Medicare: Fixes, Changes, Costs and More

As members came back to the floor when the House came into session, they discovered that the bill had already passed. No one voted yes or no, but almost everyone was surprised. The maneuvering came after a long delay amid Republican opposition that threatened to kill the bill [to fix the Medicare-fee formula].

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Government officials acted because the Medicare Advantage terminations, only a few weeks before Medicare’s Dec. 7 enrollment deadline, may not have given seniors enough time to find new doctors or to choose a different plan or even rejoin traditional Medicare, which does not restrict beneficiaries to a limited network of providers.

April 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

Proposed Medicare Part D Changes Incite Cheers, Jeers

Since it was implemented in 2006, it has been considered a tremendous success story by Republicans and Democrats alike, helping all 52 million elderly and disabled beneficiaries get access to the Medicare drug benefit through private plans approved by the federal government. Over 10 years, its costs of $346 billion have been 45 percent lower than initially projected and 95  percent of Part D beneficiaries say they are satisfied with the program  an astonishing number when looked at in the context of the controversy over the Affordable Care Act.

March 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

Sen. Ron Wyden: Seniors Now Have a Long-time Advocate Steering Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Issues

Wyden has been a senior advocate from before he came to Congress. He was the co-founder and then directed the Oregon chapter of the Grey Panthers, an advocacy group for seniors in the mid-1970s, and served as the director of the Oregon Legal Services Center for the Elderly, a non-profit law service.

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