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Author Archives: mshepard

Now is the time to support the Center's activities to preserve a full and fair Medicare program for today – and tomorrow. Gifts to the Medicare Advocacy Fund support the broad range of programming that has been the Center for Medicare Advocacy's hallmark: from keeping people informed about Medicare laws and regulations, to advocating for equitable … Read more

The federal government’s funding of a value-based purchasing (VBP) demonstration project in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program did not improve quality of care, as measured by the plans’ five-star quality ratings. The findings from this demonstration are the most recent evidence that paying health care providers more to provide better care, or to improve their … Read more

The Senate Finance Committee recently passed the Audit & Appeal Fairness, Integrity, and Reforms in Medicare (AFIRM) Act of 2015 (S. 2368).  The Act, intended to improve the Medicare audit and appeals process, would not, in fact, improve the appeals process for beneficiaries and leaves key beneficiary concerns unaddressed. The Bill does not address the … Read more

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a statement on October 30, 2015 that advises hospitals that it will not administratively sanction them if they discount or waive charges for an outpatient’s self-administered drugs. Thus, hospitals now have the option, and a greater incentive, not … Read more

In 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) promulgated the Two-Midnight Rule, which, for the first time in the Medicare program’s 50-year history, determined patient status in a hospital by reference to time.[1]  Specifically, CMS’s new rule provided that a patient would be considered an inpatient, and the hospital stay would be covered … Read more

The Center for Medicare Advocacy has been hearing more often from persons nearing retirement who work in small businesses, many of which have fewer than 20 employees.  Questions include whether COBRA benefits[1] will be available to them after they close their businesses and whether they have to keep some form of health care coverage to … Read more

This page focuses on programs that help Medicare beneficiaries acquire necessary medications, although many of the programs discussed are not limited to that population.  Many Americans who are still feeling the effects of the recession are struggling to find ways to save money and pay for their medications. Unfortunately, some have been forced to make … Read more

Continued health care coverage authorized by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, commonly referred to as COBRA, provides a great step forwarded in reducing gaps in insurance for people between jobs or losing coverage due to the death of the covered worker in a family.  The rules for COBRA coverage are, nonetheless, complicated.  … Read more

Welcome and Housekeeping  (David Lipschutz, Moderator)  Legislative Update: Congress Mitigates Increases in 2016 Part B Premium and Deductible (David Lipschutz) Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 – Overview 2016 Part B premiums increases for some, and deductible increases for all, mitigated “Loan” is to be repaid by Medicare beneficiaries over time Underlying cause(s) of increase in … Read more

Caution Advocates have seen an increase in the number of Medicare beneficiaries who have delayed enrolling in Medicare Part B, thinking, erroneously, that because they are paying for and receiving continued health coverage under COBRA, they do not have to enroll in Medicare Part B.[1]  COBRA-qualified beneficiaries who have delayed enrollment in Medicare Part B … Read more

On November 20, 2015, Center staff attended a one day symposium hosted by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) entitled “HHS Pharmaceutical Forum: Innovation, Access, Affordability & Better Health.”  The forum featured HHS Secretary Burwell, Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Andy Slavitt, consumer advocates, pharmaceutical company … Read more

November 24, 2015 Late November begins a time for gatherings with family and friends – Thanksgiving and Chanukah, soon followed by Christmas and New Years. Nursing home residents often want to participate in these gatherings but may worry they will lose Medicare coverage if they leave the facility to do so. Residents and their families … Read more

For Immediate Release November 18, 2015 Contact: Maria Myotte, mmyotte@douglasgould.com, 720 352 6153 Find the Department of Health and Human Services Departmental Appeal Board Decision of Medicare Appeals Council here: http://www.medicareadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Back-MAC-decision.pdf   In October, the Medicare Appeals Council (MAC), Medicare’s top appeal unit, reversed years of earlier decisions that thwarted an appeal of a hospice … Read more

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

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: CONGRESS MITIGATES INCREASES IN 2016 PART B PREMIUM AND DEDUCTIBLE Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 – Overview On Monday November 2, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.  This wide-ranging budget agreement includes provisions that averted a pending government default by raising the nation’s debt ceiling, and prevents … 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