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Author Archives: mshepard

For the first time in 20 years, there will be an increase in the amounts of federal fines that nursing facilities may be required to pay for violating the Nursing Home Reform Law.  A little-noticed provision of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, Pub.L. 114-74 (signed by President Obama on November 2, 2015), amends the … Read more

When Emily Back was dying in early 2008, her treating physician prescribed a medication to help relieve her excruciating pain.  After the hospice provider refused to furnish the medication, her husband, in desperation, purchased it from the pharmacy, spending almost $6,000 of their own funds.  Mr. Back thought there must be some way to appeal … Read more

Hospice Quick Reference Hospice care is compassionate end-of-life care that includes medical and supportive services intended to provide comfort to individuals who are terminally ill. Care is provided by a team. Hospice is often called “palliative care,” because it aims to manage a patient’s illness and pain, but does not treat the underlying terminal illness. Hospice … Read more

February 2008.  Pain prescription ordered by Emily Back’s physician under her hospice plan of care.  Medicare-certified hospice refuses to furnish the medication.  Howard Back purchases prescription at pharmacy. March 2008.  Emily Back dies. September 2008 – April 2009.  Howard Back makes numerous unsuccessful attempts to appeal the hospice’s denial of the medication and to submit claims … Read more

Medicare beneficiaries often need care in a Medicare- participating skilled nursing facility (SNF) after an inpatient hospitalization.  For these patients, hospitals are responsible for identifying skilled nursing facilities within the geographic region that can meet the patient’s medical needs.  Until such a placement is found, the beneficiary will not be responsible for her hospital stay.  … Read more

On Friday, October 23, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an expansion of the 3-year Medicare Prior Authorization Model for Repetitive Scheduled Non-Emergent Ambulance Transport in accordance with section 515(a) of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. The model is being expanded to the states of Maryland, Delaware, … Read more

On November 3, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), published in the Federal Register (80 Fed. Reg. 68126), proposed revisions to requirements for discharge planning for hospitals, CAHs, and HHAs. The proposed rule is also available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-11-03/pdf/2015-27840.pdf.  Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted to CMS by 5 p.m. on … Read more

This week the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the Medicare premium, deductible and co-pay amounts for 2016.  As the Center for Medicare Advocacy has extensively reported, the Part B Premium, which was feared to spike outrageously for many beneficiaries, will instead remain the same for most, and increase far less for the rest.  … Read more

On Monday November 2, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. As reported in last week’s CMA Alert, this wide-ranging budget agreement includes provisions that will mitigate, but not eliminate, Part B premium increases for some and Part B deductible increases for all. In short, the Budget Act will keep … Read more

Stephanie Roach joined the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s Data Unit in Harrison, Maine in March 2011 as a part-time assistant working on Home Health Third Party Liability. When the Center closed its office in Maine in 2013, they so valued Stephanie’s accuracy, detail and loyalty, that they asked her to stay on as a consultant working … Read more

Judith Feder is a professor of public policy and, from 1999 to 2008, served as dean of what is now the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. A nationally-recognized leader in health policy, Ms. Feder has made her mark on the nation’s health insurance system, through both scholarship and public service. A widely published … Read more

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.  Broadly speaking, this agreement avoids a pending government default by raising the nation’s debt ceiling, and prevents relief from budgetary “sequester” spending limits that have constrained social service programs.  The bill also provides temporary stability to the Social Security Disability Insurance fund. … Read more

Individuals in traditional Medicare who require intravenous or injectable medications are often stunned to learn they have to leave home to obtain this necessary care. This is true even when they are receiving other Medicare-covered home health services.    Obtaining coverage for both the medication and the professional services necessary for the infusion or injections … Read more

On July 16, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published proposed rules to revise the Requirements of Participation (RoPs) for nursing facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid, or both.[1]  Since most nursing facilities participate in both programs, the federal regulations set the standards of care for facilities.  The current RoPs, which … Read more

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released an issue brief that describes the income and assets of Medicare beneficiaries in 2014. It is essential to place proposals making changes to the Medicare program within the context of this data in order to understand the impact on beneficiaries. This is particularly true for proposals that shift costs … Read more

If Congress and the Administration truly seek ways to limit Medicare premiums and deductibles, they ought to look at CMS's hospital Observation Status policy. A major cause of the Part B increase is likely the parallel increase in so-called "outpatient" Observation Status, the use of which has more than doubled since 1999. The result of this … Read more

In recognition of her superb work advancing access to long term care and health care with Senator Rockefeller, the Pepper Commission, and (then) Senator Hillary Clinton, the Center for Medicare Advocacy is pleased to honor our 2016 Senator Jay Rockefeller Lecturer: Ms.Tamera Luzzatto Tamera Luzzatto is senior vice president of Government Relations at The Pew Charitable … Read more

Today the Social Security Administration announced that, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation numbers released today, there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2016. The announcement makes official the assumption underlying the 2015 Medicare Trustees Report premium and deductible projections for 2016. According to the 2015 Medicare Trustees Report, Part B … Read more

In a report entitled “Medicare Part D: A First Look at Plan Offerings in 2016” (October 2015), the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed the Part D market in 2016 and found, among other things, that: In 2016, beneficiaries in each region will have a choice of 26 PDPs, on average, down by 4 from 2015. The … Read more

Fall is the time for Medicare beneficiaries to explore their options regarding traditional Medicare, Part D prescription drug plans and Part C Medicare Advantage plans.  The Annual Coordinated Election Period (ACEP) starts on October 15th and ends on December 7th. This means that Medicare beneficiaries have to analyze their options and make choices by December … Read more

October 14, 2015 Andrew M. Slavitt Acting Administrator Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Department of Health and Human Services Room 445-G, Hubert H. Humphrey Building 200 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, D.C.  20201 Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Reform of Requirements for long-Term Care Facilities CMS-3260-P Submitted electronically:  http://www.regulations.gov Dear Mr. Slavitt and CMS Colleagues: The … Read more

The Chair of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), Max Richtman, sent a letter to Senators today urging support of the “Protecting Medicare Beneficiaries Act of 2015” S. 2148. This legislation would keep the 2016 premiums and deductible stable for all Medicare beneficiaries, by protecting the premiums of the 30% of beneficiaries who will … Read more

On October 8, 2015 the Center for Medicare Advocacy filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights regarding Proposed Local Coverage Determination (LCD) DL 33787.  This proposed LCD would unfairly and illegally restrict Medicare coverage for beneficiaries in need of lower limb prostheses. The complaint was filed on behalf of Dr. Roger Catlin, an … Read more

Proposed LCD DL 33787 unfairly and illegally restricts Medicare coverage for, and discriminates against, Dr. Roger Catlin, an above-knee amputee who wears an elevated vacuum socket, micro-processor knee and energy storing foot. Dr. Catlin breaks all assumptions the proposed LCD makes about his co-morbidities related to his functional potential. He ambulates independently, runs a tractor, … Read more

Based on recent experience, the Center for Medicare Advocacy provides this Practice Tip for providers and advocates for patients who need to change from an improvement mode to maintenance mode for nursing or therapy. The Center is seeing decisions from Medicare Contractors requiring that providers obtain new orders when a patient’s goals change to maintenance … Read more

Your support for Medicare is crucial. If you haven't already, get your friends and family involved too! Send them this link and encourage them to write to their senators now: http://org.salsalabs.com/o/777/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18543. And, if you would like to help us continue to fight for the rights of Medicare beneficiaries, please make a donation today. Thank you.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently rolled out a web-based resource for employers to help them assist employees with obtaining information about transitioning to Medicare coverage.  This resource is part of a broader, concerted effort on the part of CMS and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to improve the information available to … Read more

This week, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report entitled “Medicare Advantage: Actions Needed to Enhance CMS Oversight of Provider Network Adequacy” (August 2015, publicly released September 28, 2015).  This report reviews how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ensures adequate access to care for Medicare Advantage (MA) enrollees. The report was … Read more

According to the 2015 Medicare Trustees Report, Part B premiums are expected to increase for 30% of beneficiaries by 52% – from $104.90 to $159.30 per month. The trustees also predict that this increase will be accompanied by an increase in the Part B deductible—up to $223 from $147. These are projections; the final numbers … Read more

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete our recent Jimmo Implementation Council survey. We are writing to provide a summary of the results and the status of our efforts. In summary, there is enthusiasm for staying in touch and continuing to work together to advance implementation of the Jimmo Settlement.  96% of … Read more

On July 16, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published proposed rules to revise the nursing home Requirements of Participation (RoPs) – the federal rules that govern the standards of care that facilities must meet in order to participate in the Medicare or Medicaid programs, or both.[1]  At the request of many … Read more

On September 1, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an announcement concerning a demonstration called the Medicare Advantage (MA) Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) model. (See: http://innovation.cms.gov/Files/x/mavbid-announcement.pdf.)  As described by CMS, Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) “generally refers to health insurers’ efforts to structure enrollee cost-sharing and other health plan design elements to … Read more

September 15, 2015 Submitted electronically Sheila Hanley Director, Policy and Programs Group Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services HealthPlanInnovation@cms.hhs.gov RE: Medicare Advantage (MA) Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) Model The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., (Center) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments in response to the recently announced Medicare Advantage … Read more

Social Security now offers a convenient online service for Medicare beneficiaries who have lost, damaged, or otherwise need to replace their Medicare cards. Through his or her my Social Security account, a beneficiary can now easily order a replacement Medicare card. A my Social Security account only takes a few minutes to set up, and offers several … Read more

In collaboration with a number of other advocacy organizations, this week the Center for Medicare Advocacy submitted comments to CMS about two sets of proposed rules: Revisions to Payment Policies Under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2016 (CMS-1631-P) The Center’s comments primarily focus on expressing strong support for … Read more

On September 8, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) introduced an Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare.  Aimed at eliminating health disparities experienced by underserved populations, the plan focuses on six priority areas and seeks to reduce health disparities in four years. A Press Release … Read more

September 8, 2015 Andy Slavitt, Acting Administrator Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Department of Health and Human Services Attention: CMS-1631-P P.O. Box 8016 Baltimore, MD 21244-8016 Delivered Electronically through www.regulations.gov Re: Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies Under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2016  Administrator Slavitt: The … Read more

September 8, 2015 Andy Slavitt Acting Administrator Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Attention: CMS-5516-P 7500 Security Boulevard Baltimore, MD 21244-1850 Delivered Electronically through www.regulations.gov Re: Medicare Program; Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Payment Model for Acute Care Hospitals Furnishing Lower Extremity Joint Replacement Services (CMS-5516-P) Administrator Slavitt: … Read more

Harmful Changes to Lower Limb Prostheses Coverage Too Much Reliance on “Improvement” in the Proposed Home Health Value-Based Purchasing (HHVBP) Model Proposed Revisions to the 2-Midnight Rule Won’t Make Any Significant Change 1. Harmful Changes to Lower Limb Prostheses Coverage The Center recently called for the elimination of a proposed local coverage determination (LCD) that … Read more

ADMINISTRATIVE UPDATE 1. Proposed Requirements of Participation for Nursing Facilities On July 16, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published proposed rules to revise the nursing home Requirements of Participation (RoPs) – the federal rules that govern the standards of care that facilities must meet in order to participate in the Medicare … Read more

Welcome and Housekeeping  (David Lipschutz, Moderator)  Administrative Update    Proposed Requirements of Participation for Nursing Facilities (Toby Edelman) Overview of Proposed Rule – 80 Fed. Reg. 41267 (July 16, 2015) Center’s Draft Comments (now due October 14, 2015) Update on 2016 Part B Premiums and Deductibles (David Lipschutz) Medicare Trustees Report and next steps Access … Read more

If you are eligible for Medicare you can chose between getting your Medicare benefits through traditional Medicare (also commonly referred to as original Medicare) or a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan.  Making this choice is personal and requires that you consider your circumstances, including your health, your desire for flexibility, your budget and your tolerance for … Read more

September 1, 2015 SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY http://www.regulations.gov Andrew Slavitt, Acting Administrator Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Department of Health & Human Services 200 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20201 Re: CMS-1625-P Dear Acting Administrator Slavitt: The Center for Medicare Advocacy (the Center) is pleased to provide comments on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services … Read more

August 31, 2015 Stacey Brennan, M.D. DME MAC Medical Director National Government Services 8115 Knue Road Indianapolis, Indiana  46250 Submitted Electronically to: DMAC_DRAFT_LCD_Comments@anthem.com Re: Proposed Draft LCD on Lower Limb Prostheses (DL33787) Dear Dr. Brennan: The Center for Medicare Advocacy (Center) appreciates the opportunity to provide the following comments regarding the proposed draft LCD on … Read more

CMS-1633-P, Medicare Program: Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment Systems and Quality Reporting Programs; Short Inpatient Hospital Stays; Transition for Certain Medicare-Dependent, Small Rural Hospitals Under the Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System Andy Slavitt Acting Administrator Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Department of Health and Human Services Room 445-G, Hubert H. … Read more

The Center for Medicare Advocacy is concerned that Medicare beneficiaries are being denied Medicare coverage for skilled services that are specifically listed as covered by Medicare in federal regulations. Medicare covers various skilled therapies (physical, speech–language pathology and occupational) and skilled nursing services, including observation and assessment, management and evaluation of a care plan, or … Read more

A recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) report, Access to Care Issues Among Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries (QMB), revealed several access to care problems for low-income Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the QMB program. The report analyzed two studies focused on access to care for low-income beneficiaries. The first study utilized qualitative interviews with beneficiaries … Read more

Hospitals often classify hospitalized Medicare patients as outpatients, even though their hospital care may be indistinguishable from the care they would receive if they were formally admitted as inpatients.  This issue – called Observation Status – has been a serious problem for Medicare beneficiaries for many years,[1] chiefly because patients who do not have at … Read more

9 Facts About Social Security, a recent blog post by Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jeff Zients, Director of the National Economic Council, identifies nine important accomplishments for our aging society and for persons with disabilities. Social Security forms the foundation for retirement security through universal, guaranteed benefits. Social Security … Read more

This photo of the signing of the Social Security Act was sent to us by a friend of the Center whose father received it, signed, from President Roosevelt’s son. When President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935, older people and their families entered a new era of financial … Read more