From the category archives: healthcare
A new Kaiser Foundation poll confirms (again) that the vast majority of Americans, of all political stripes, support Medicare and Medicaid and don’t want Washington to replace Medicare with CouponCare. Kaiser reports:
“A strong majority (70%) say that Medicare should continue to ensure all seniors get the same defined set of benefits. Far fewer (26%) say that the program should be changed to instead guarantee each senior a fixed contribution to the cost of their health insurance – a system known as premium support that has been proposed to address Medicare’s long-term financing challenges.
By at least two-to-one margins, majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents favor keeping Medicare as is rather than changing to a premium support program. Adults under 65 years old are somewhat more likely than seniors to favor premium support (28% compared to 18%), though large majorities in all age groups prefer Medicare’s current structure.”
In spite of the American people’s strong support of Medicare, Republicans in Congress continue their campaign to end traditional Medicare and replace it with a voucher program that gives seniors a coupon they then have to use to try and buy their own health coverage. This plan would create a death spiral for traditional Medicare, make it harder for seniors to choose their own doctors while passing more costs to Americans so they’ll pay more for less coverage. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted the Ryan CouponCare Plan could cost seniors $20,000 more each year.
The Kaiser poll also found that Americans support reforms designed to improve Medicare’s long-term financial picture. The most popular reform; however, has consistently been ignored by this Republican controlled Congress.
“By far the most popular change to Medicare is allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies. Overall, 87% of the public supports such an option, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents and across generations.
Smaller majorities favor increasing Medicare premiums for wealthier seniors (58%), which already occurs and was expanded earlier this year as part of Medicare’s physician payment reforms; and reducing payments to Medicare Advantage plans (51%). Fewer support raising Medicare’s age of eligibility from 65 to 67 (39%), raising premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries (31%), or increasing cost-sharing for future Medicare beneficiaries (24%).”
The vast majority of those polled (89%) want Medicare’s funding expanded or at least maintained. Which is in stark contrast to ongoing efforts in Congress to use Medicare as an ATM by cutting the program to pay for other items such as the Trade Agreement.
As we celebrate Medicare and Medicaid’s 50th Anniversary on July 30th it’s important we remain vigilant in support of these vital programs. That means constantly reminding Congress Medicare and Medicaid should be strengthened not cut.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare celebrated Medicare’s anniversary at a Capitol Hill event today with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Johns Hopkins researcher, Dr. Frank Lin and Michigan senior, Ann Liming, who has hearing loss, urging Congress to allow Medicare to provide hearing aid coverage for millions of older Americans.
“The reality is that while Medicare provides critical health coverage to millions of beneficiaries there are very serious gaps which exist. We are working to address the hearing aid issue immediately. The Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015 is the first bill I’ve introduced because I think this is so important. No one should feel isolated, confused or shut out from the world because they can’t afford the treatment they need.”...Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)
“This is a really serious issue. It costs thousands of dollars for hearing aids yet the vast majority of seniors who need them don’t have them because they simply can’t afford it. That comes with a high cost to society and healthcare costs in Medicare.” ...Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
The effects of hearing loss are devastating. 48 million Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss making it a serious public health threat behind heart disease and arthritis. One out of three people over 65 has a hearing loss with more than 65% of those suffering a loss before retirement age. Research has shown older adults with hearing loss are 32% more likely to require hospitalization, face a 24% increased risk for cognitive impairment and increasingly suffer from isolation and depression.
“We are beginning to understand now that there are direct biological pathways through which age-related hearing loss, which all of us will experience to some degree, directly contributes to even more serious critical outcomes which are incredibly expensive. Hearing loss reaches far beyond quality of life issues.”...Dr. Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health.
As we celebrate Medicare’s 50th anniversary on July 30th, it’s important to note that one of Medicare’s most important hallmarks is the program’s long and successful history of evolving to address the changing demographic and health security needs of America’s seniors. It’s time for Congress to address the mounting evidence that hearing loss has wide implications for the Medicare program.
“Allowing Medicare to cover the cost of hearing aids would not only improve the health and independence of millions of seniors it makes good economic and policy sense by potentially preventing the costly effects of hearing loss through increased hospitalizations, cases of depression and cognitive decline. Not covering routine hearing exams, hearing aids, or exams for fitting hearing aids leaves far too many seniors vulnerable. Medicare covers testing strips for diabetics and wheelchairs for people who can no longer walk, there’s no reason people suffering from hearing loss should be denied coverage for hearing aids.” ...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
NCPSSM has endorsed Congresswoman Dingell’s Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare Foundation has also issued a comprehensive Hearing Loss and Medicare Issue Brief detailing the research findings on hearing loss impacts and the policy prescriptions needed to address the challenges hearing loss poses for millions of seniors and the Medicare program itself.
You could literally hear the collective sigh of relief today as millions of Americans whose healthcare was in jeopardy found out today they can keep their coverage through Obamacare. Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding federal exchange subsidies is also good news for millions of seniors in Medicare who stand to lose billions in new benefits if healthcare reform is dismantled.
As we have said for years now, seniors in Medicare need the Affordable Care Act. Today’s Supreme Court ruling helps preserve this vital reform.
"Today’s Supreme Court decision impacts so many more Americans than just those in federal health exchanges created by Obamacare. Thankfully, the Court’s ruling today preserves the many benefits and savings that Americans have received through the Affordable Care Act and avoids the damage that could have been done to our entire American health care system.
Seniors in Medicare have a stake in this debate as they will save, on average, about $5,000 over the next 10 years due to lower drug costs, preventive services with no out-of-pocket cost and reductions in the growth of health spending. Since passage of Obamacare, more than 8.2 million people with Medicare saved over $11.5 billion on prescription drugs. These are real people who will face real threats to their health security if the quest to dismantle Obamacare is ever successful. No doubt the enemies of health care reform will continue their zealous mission to roll back Obamacare’s successes but today we have reason to celebrate. Tomorrow we’ll resume our fight to ensure seniors continue to benefit from the enormous savings Obamacare provides them and their families.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
Chances are if you’re a regular reader of this blog, the last issue you’d expect to see us write about is the hotly-debated and barely understood TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) trade deal. After all, keeping up with and explaining policy issues impacting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is complicated enough, so yes, we really didn’t plan on wading too deep into the trade deal. (Although you can read NCPSSM’s take on TPP and drug prices here.)
Unfortunately, that changed this week with news that Congress (with the White House running silent) intends to cut $700 million from the Medicare program to pay for a slice of the trade package. We talked to Michael Hiltzik the Los Angeles Times about this back-door attack on Medicare:
“The plan on Capitol Hill is to move the Trade Assistance Program expansion in tandem with fast-track approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, possibly as early as this week. We explained earlier the dangers of the fast-track approval of this immense and largely secret trade deal. But the linkage with the assistance program adds a new layer of political connivance: Congressional Democrats demanded the expansion of the Trade Assistance Program, Congressional Republicans apparently found the money in Medicare, and the Obama White House, which should be howling in protest, has remained silent.
Medicare advocates have taken up the slack by raising the alarm. "To take this cut and apply it to something completely unrelated sets a terrible precedent," Max Richtman, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told me.
The Medicare raid was so stealthy that critics in Congress, including members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are just now gearing up to oppose it. "It was sort of buried" in the bill, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the caucus co-chair, told me Monday.”
Funding the Trade Assistance Program is necessary to help Americans workers expected to lose their jobs because of this trade deal receive job training and assistance. However, telling American workers they have to trade away health care benefits in their retirement in order to get job training when they lose their job now is incredibly mercenary, even by Washington standards.
This isn’t the first time Medicare has been Congress’ piggy bank. This move follows last year’s vote to extend the Medicare sequester cuts into 2024 to cover a reversal of cost-of-living cuts to veterans' pension benefits. Shifting Medicare funds to other programs seems to be Congress’ new go-to budget approach. That’s pretty ironic given that the GOP has spent millions of campaign dollars claiming Obamacare cut Medicare benefits (which is didn’t):
“This is different from the $700-billion cost reduction in Medicare enacted via the Affordable Care Act. That includes efforts to make the program more efficient by improving the incentives governing how doctors and hospitals deliver care to their patients, along with reductions in payments to Medicare Advantage plans. Richtman points out that much of this amounts to a reallocation within Medicare -- "it's piled back into the program by paying for improvements in preventive care, closing the 'doughnut' hole in Medicare Part D (the prescription drug benefit)" and other measures. In the broadest sense, the cost reductions in Medicare are netted against other healthcare costs within the Affordable Care Act.
By contrast, the new proposal would take $700 million out of Medicare, period. Nothing in the TAA will help Medicare function better, augment its services to members, or cover healthcare costs. Slicing into physician and hospital reimbursements may have the opposite effect, by reducing members' access to care. "I'd characterize this as money stolen from Medicare," Richtman says.”
We recommend you read Michael Hiltzik’s entire story at the Los Angeles Times
The House has passed the so-called "doc fix" legislation replacing the flawed reimbursement formula Congress itself created years ago to cut pay to doctors in Medicare. The formula has never worked and Congress has had to vote to replace it year after year. We've supported the permanent replacement of this flawed formula and still do. Unfortunately, the legislation that passed the House today merely trades one bad deal for another. And this time it's seniors who take the hit.
“Contrary to claims by supporters, on both sides of the aisle, this ‘doc fix’ does not impact only ‘wealthy seniors’. Millions of beneficiaries who depend on a Medigap plan to help pay their health care bills – no matter their income -- will be hit with higher costs. Given that 46% of all Medigap policy holders had incomes of $30,000 or less, it’s clear this deal impacts far more than the wealthy, as the bill’s proponents have claimed. What’s more, Medicare beneficiaries will be forced to contribute nearly $60 billion in premiums over the next decade to replace the SGR.
No doubt, we’ll hear today that this ‘compromise’ Medicare doc-fix plan must be a success because there are concessions from all sides. Unfortunately, that political trope is just as flawed as the SGR itself because it ignores the financial reality facing Medicare beneficiaries just as the SGR ignored the reality facing doctors. Trading a bad deal for doctors for a bad deal for seniors is not a legislative victory and it is a surprising move from some in Congress who have previously vowed to protect Medicare from cuts and seniors from cost-shifting.
It’s no surprise that anti-“entitlement” lobbyists on Capitol Hill and their allies in Congress are celebrating this deal for the benefit cuts they know will ‘grow like an avalanche over time’. That avalanche will be headed straight for American retirees, current and future, as Congress continues to push Medicare down the slippery slope of means testing, raising costs for more and more seniors, including the middle-class.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
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