A Message From Medicare Rights Center President Joe Baker on Medicare’s 46th Anniversary
Medicare turns 46 on Saturday, a
cause for celebration despite these
uncertain times. One year before
Medicare was signed into law,
nearly half of older Americans did
not have health insurance, and
only one-quarter were estimated to
have adequate hospital insurance
coverage. This revolutionary
program has given millions of Americans retirement and financial security, improving their quality of life and ensuring their continued health and safety.
Most agree that the need to raise the debt ceiling is urgent, but now is not the time to enact potentially dangerous deficit-reduction policies that threaten Americans’ quality of life over the long term. In forging a way forward, we need to be sure to adopt a balanced approach that includes increased revenues in order to prevent catastrophic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that would result in increased costs for beneficiaries and decreased access to care. Most importantly, we must remember that growing costs in Medicare are a symptom of a larger problem: growing costs in the health care sector overall. Fortunately, delivery system reforms included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other proposals—like the Medicare Drug Savings Act, which allows for drug rebates under Medicare—address this problem without penalizing beneficiaries.
Every year at the Medicare Rights Center, we are fortunate enough to work with thousands of people with Medicare and their caregivers who share their lives with us. Some stories are tragic, some are frustrating, but all are inspirational, and together they demonstrate the necessity of Medicare and drive us to work to improve and preserve the program for current and future generations.
* * *
Medicare is at the center of the deficit reduction debate, and some proposals would forever change the program. In honor of Medicare’s birthday, we invite you to visit our Facebook page and share your answer to a simple question: What do you like about Medicare? What makes Medicare work for you, and why must the program be preserved? We want to hear from you. Please leave your comment at www.facebook.com/medicarerights.
Not on Facebook? Send us an e-mail.
New Report Examines Plan Finder, Difficulties of Choosing a Part D Plan
People with Medicare who are assessing their Part D prescription drug plan options should have access to a manageable number of meaningfully distinct choices, according to a report released this week by the Medicare Rights Center. The report, Planning Ahead: Recommendations for Plan Finder, Inspired by Beneficiaries, examines data from a survey of Medicare Rights Center clients who used Plan Finder, an online tool created and maintained by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
According to the report, many beneficiaries find the plan details outlined by Plan Finder difficult to decipher, and confusion over discrepancies between Plan Finder and “Medicare & You,” the official Medicare handbook, are a recurring theme. CMS has made significant improvements to Plan Finder in recent years, at the request of people with Medicare and their advocates. But with so many plans to choose from—last year, every beneficiary had access to more than 28 stand-alone prescription drug plans—it may be difficult for even the best online tool to completely untangle the knot of plan options. Many survey respondents became frustrated with the plan selection process, and some resorted to sticking with their current plans out of convenience, even when their existing plan was more expensive or restrictive.
As a result of these findings, the report makes four primary recommendations:
- Beneficiaries and their advocates should be able to identify the most comprehensive and affordable plan upon their initial Plan Finder search.
- Because beneficiaries often find the data presented difficult to decipher, it may be beneficial to reorganize the data and create a decision tree to help guide them through the plan selection process.
- As complementary resources, “Medicare & You” and Plan Finder must provide consistent information. Because “Medicare & You” is published before Plan Finder data for the upcoming year is finalized, it should point to Plan Finder as the most up-to-date resource for drug plan information.
- CMS should build on the current initiative to consolidate plans that lack meaningful differences. Beneficiaries should have access to a manageable number of meaningfully distinct plan choices.
Read the report.
Read a post about the report on The Hill’s Healthwatch blog.
Medicare will help pay for your hospice care if you meet all of the following criteria:
- You have Part A
- The hospice medical director (and your doctor, if you have one) certify that you have a terminal illness (your life expectancy is six months or less)
- You sign a statement electing to have Medicare pay for palliative care such as pain management, rather than care to try to cure your condition
- Your terminal condition is documented in your medical record
- You receive care from a Medicare-certified hospice agency
Learn more about Medicare coverage of hospice care at www.medicareinteractive.org.
Raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 is questionable policy, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed article written by Medicare Rights Center Board Member Theodore R. Marmor and Jerry L. Mashaw. The authors argue that such a change would shift costs to beneficiaries and employers, resulting in an increase in total health care spending.
Read the op-ed article.