Supercommittee Open for Business
The Joint Select Committee
on Deficit Reduction, also
known as the
“supercommittee,” held its
first meeting today, with
each member of the
committee giving opening remarks that focused mainly on the need for both sides of the aisle to work together. At the public meeting, members discussed general goals and procedures for moving forward, with the committee’s co-chairs, Representative Jeb Hensarling and Senator Patty Murray, promising transparency—including the passage of rules that state all meetings be held publicly unless the committee votes to meet in private. The supercommittee’s goal is to reach a compromise that will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion dollars and that Congress will approve through a fast-tracked process. If the committee and Congress do not approve a package that includes at least $1.2 trillion in savings, automatic spending cuts will take effect. Medicaid and Social Security are not subject to automatic cuts, and automatic cuts to Medicare are limited to a 2 percent reduction in payments to providers and private plans. However, as discussed at today’s meeting, the committee may recommend changes to all programs—including Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare—as well as increases in revenue and changes to the tax code.
To help individuals navigate what the supercommittee may consider concerning Medicare and Medicaid, Medicare Rights Center recently updated its fact sheet titled “Painting a Grim Picture.” The fact sheet not only explores the characteristics of the Medicare population—including its income, assets, and health care usage and needs—but also describes some of the proposals that the committee may consider and the implications of those proposals for people with Medicare. Of particular concern are proposals that would save the federal government money by shifting costs to Medicare beneficiaries or reducing access to care. Such proposals are especially problematic because half of people with Medicare have incomes below $22,000 per year, and Medicare beneficiaries already spend on average 15 percent of their annual incomes on health care—three times as much as the non-Medicare population.
The next meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is due to take place on Tuesday, September 13.
Read the Medicare Rights Center’s fact sheet “Painting a Grim Picture.”
To learn more about the legislation that formed the supercommittee and required certain reductions to the federal budget, see “The Debt Deal and Medicare.”
New Dates and New Resources for Fall Open Enrollment
Starting this year, the Medicare Fall Open Enrollment Period begins on October 15 and lasts through December 7. (This is a change from previous years, when the enrollment period began in November and ended on December 31.) During Fall Open Enrollment, people with Medicare have the right to change their Medicare health and drug coverage options without restriction. They can make as many changes as they need, and the last change they make on or before December 7 will take effect on January 1, 2012.
Medicare Rights Center has prepared a packet of information for journalists to prepare them for the upcoming enrollment season. In addition to information on the date change, the packet covers enrollment advice for Medicare beneficiaries, Medicare changes in 2012, and more. In late August, Medicare Rights also held a webinar on Fall Open Enrollment that featured Medicare Rights experts. Both the packet and the webinar were designed for journalists but are relevant for anyone interested in learning more about Medicare coverage options—including Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and the professionals who help them.
Read the Fall Open Enrollment resource.
Watch the webinar.
Medicare covers counseling to help you quit smoking (smoking cessation).
Medicare will cover two counseling attempts at quitting smoking per year. Each attempt includes four sessions. Medicare will cover a total of eight sessions every 12 months.
As a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), if you have Original Medicare you no longer pay coinsurance or deductibles for smoking cessation counseling if you have not been diagnosed with an illness that is caused or complicated by smoking and you see a Medicare-recognized doctor or other health care provider.
Learn more about Medicare coverage to help you quit smoking at www.medicareinteractive.org.
Raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 would shift costs to older adults, younger adults, employers and states, according to a recent article by Paul N. Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Mr. Van de Water argues that, far from limiting overall health care costs, such a proposal would actually increase them.
Read the article.