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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.

February 2014
Ambord
Dollar Sense

10 Worst States for Retirement

Bankrate.com rated the 10 states retirees might want to avoid.  The ratings were based mostly on factors important to seniors, like temperature, crime rate, cost of living, and the tax bite.

Schlein
Washington Watch

This is Your Medicare on Drugs: Fraud and Abuse Rampant in Part D Drug Program. Will Proposed New Rules Bring Much-needed Reform?

The data analysis also showed widespread prescribing of a muscle-relaxant drug called carisoprodol, also known as Soma, which was pulled from the European market in 2007. In 2010 alone, health-care professionals wrote more than 500,000 prescriptions for the drug to patients 65 and older. This drug is on the American Geriatrics Society’s list of drugs seniors should avoid.

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For decades, Medicare has given much higher priority to making medications easily accessible to seniors and the disabled than to weeding out dangerous providers. Under the new rules – and for the first time – the agency would have the authority to kick out physicians and other providers who engage in abusive prescribing. It could also take this action if providers’ licenses have been suspended or revoked by state regulators or if they are restricted from prescribing painkillers and other controlled substances.

January 2014
Schlein
Washington Watch

Desperately Seeking Answers to Medicare Spending and Scams

Everyone seems to be making money from Medicare for services provided to seniors after their hospital stay. But some of these providers earned big profits from Medicare through what KHN described as “a hodgepodge of payment methods that health experts say encourages unnecessary and disjointed care, wastes taxpayer money and makes fraud easier.”

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