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March 2015
Schlein
Washington Watch

Critical Health Care Decisions Now in the Hands of the Supremes along with Young Representatives and Some Octogenarians in the Senate

This time the issue is about the authorization for tax subsidies for low and middle income folks. The lawsuit alleges that the government should not be providing subsidies to people who purchase coverage in the 36 states that have opted not to run their own health insurance marketplaces.

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Unlike their young House counterparts, seniors may find some sympathetic voices among the conservative Republicans in the Senate. That’s because six of the incoming Senate Republican chairmen are at least 80 years old already or will have their 80th birthday in the course of this 114th Congress.

February 2015
Schlein
Washington Watch

Generic Drug Prices Soaring Sky-High and No One Is Sure Why – Or What to Do About It

New data released in connection with the hearing found that half of generic medicines went up in price between the summer of 2013 and summer 2014. The data also pointed out that about 10 percent more than doubled in cost in that time with some common medicines rising by over 500 percent.

January 2015
Ambord
Dollar Sense

Veterans End-of-Life Benefits

Eligible veterans may be buried in a state or national VA cemetery. You can see a list of these cemeteries at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/listcem.asp. Also, although you can choose in advance where you will be buried, you cannot reserve a space in a national cemetery.

Ambord
Dollar Sense

When You’re 64: Initial Enrollment in Medicare is a Critical Time. What You Don’t Know or Don’t Do Can Cost You for the Rest of Your Life

Part B covers outpatient costs, and for most people, requires the recipient to pay a premium. For that reason, some people who have other coverage (like retiree coverage) decline Part B. That may seem like a wise choice, but it is potentially a mistake that will cost you for the rest of your life, so be careful.

Schlein
Washington Watch

Medicare: Rules, Regs, Reversals, Boondoggles and Fraud Fights

These doctors started testing for as many as 40 different drugs, including illegal ones that few seniors ever use, and billing Medicare separately for each substance. The Wall Street Journal found Medicare’s spending on 22 high-tech tests for drugs of abuse hit $445 million in 2012, up 1,423% in five years.

December 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

Washington Watch Potpourri: Social Security, Medicare and the FDA – Still Waiting, Not Paying, and the Naming Game

The backlog problem is not unique to the SSA. Other government agencies have the same problem. According to the Washington Post, the average case at the Social Security appeals office usually takes 422 days to decide, while an appeal at the VA will take 957 days. At the patent office, an application usually waits more than 800 days for a decision.

November 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

Critical Questions to Consider During Medicare Open Enrollment Right Now

You could be making a big mistake by not taking a fresh look because in many cases, plans have changed, doctors you count on have been dropped from specific plans and some plans have disappeared altogether.

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Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies like United Healthcare, Cigna, Aetna and Humana, among others. Due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) their costs are subsidized by the Medicare program. Because of those subsidies, more than half of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries last year paid $0 per month over Part B premiums. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects the average MA premium for 2015 will be $33.90.

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.

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