Posted on 12/21/2016 12:00 PM By NCPSSM
There’s no doubt about it...Medicare can be confusing. However, there are many benefits out there that many seniors may not even realize exist. Here’s a quick look at a few of the often overlooked Medicare benefits that you should be sure you are fully utilizing.
Annual wellness visit
If President-elect Trump follows up on his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, this benefit will disappear, which is a real loss for millions of seniors who’ve used these visits preventatively to avoid potentially larger health issues in the future. If you haven’t already, get your annual visit in soon.
Wellness visits are with your primary-care physician once a year, even when you're feeling fine. These visits give you and your doctor a chance to review your health and see where attention might be needed or improvements might be made. The focus is on your overall health and allows patients and doctors to red-flag any concerns that might seem small now but could lead to a more serious issue if ignored. Wellness visits are available to anyone covered by Part B or Medicare Advantage plans. For now, anyway.
Once a year, every Medicare Part B recipient can receive free depression screening from his or her primary-care doctor. This is an important benefit because one in six seniors suffers from depression yet estimates are only 10% of chronically depressed seniors receive the treatment they need for their disease.
Late life depression is an important public health problem. It is associated with increased risk of illness, increased risk of suicide, decreased physical, cognitive and social functioning, and greater self-neglect, all of which are in turn associated with an increased likelihood of death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 40 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes. Smoking is the #1 cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. In fact, more than 480,000 Americans die, or 1 of every 5 deaths, from tobacco use. It’s never too late to stop smoking. That’s why Medicare provides its beneficiaries help quitting. Anyone who uses tobacco and has Medicare Part B coverage can get up to eight smoking-cessation visits covered over a 12-month period. The only stipulation is that the visits are with a qualified doctor or other Medicare-recognized practitioner. These visits will not cost you a penny out of pocket, so if you're a smoker who wants to quit for good, make sure you take advantage of this Medicare benefit.
Posted on 12/6/2016 2:04 PM By NCPSSM
House Speaker Paul Ryan perpetuated dangerous falsehoods about Medicare on CBS “60 Minutes” Sunday night. In an interview with correspondent Scott Pelley, Ryan hauled out the myth that “Medicare goes bankrupt in about 10 years.” He continued, “The trust fund runs out of money. So we have to make sure that we shore this program up.” Really?
To Ryan, “shoring up” Medicare means privatizing it, creating what we at the National Committee call “coupon care.” Seniors would have to fend for themselves in the private insurance market with government-provided vouchers that wouldn’t fully cover their premiums or out-of-pocket costs. Traditional Medicare would be left to wither and die.
Ryan’s plan is based on a fake crisis. Contrary to the Speaker’s claims on “60 Minutes,” Medicare does not go bankrupt in 10 years. It’s true that – without increasing payroll taxes – the Medicare Hospital Trust fund (which finances Medicare Part A) will become depleted in 2028. However, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out, “incoming payroll taxes and other revenue will still cover 87% of Medicare hospital insurance costs.” That’s a far cry from bankruptcy, Mr. Ryan.
Any shortfalls, CBPP notes, could be covered by “raising revenues, slowing the growth in costs, or most likely both,” without wrecking traditional Medicare - options that Ryan doesn’t seem inclined to consider.
The other fiction that Ryan perpetrates in his “60 Minutes” appearance is that his Medicare “reforms” wouldn’t “change the benefit” for anybody who is in or near retirement – only Gen X’ers (like Ryan himself) and subsequent generations. This is simply untrue. Our own analysis at NCPSSM indicates that privatizing Medicare could adversely impact anyone 55 and older (including people currently enrolled in traditional Medicare) because of potentially higher premiums, benefit cuts, and higher out-of-pockets. Neither seniors nor their children and grandchildren should believe Ryan’s false assurances. There is simply too much at stake.
Posted on 11/28/2016 12:00 PM By NCPSSM
Today is Giving Tuesday which is an international day of giving. It’s a chance for us to look beyond the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the shopping and the demands of it all to stop and ask ourselves – how can I make a difference?
In today’s political environment, that question is especially important for millions of American seniors and their families who depend on our nation’s retirement and health security safety net.
The future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will impact the lives of virtually every American family, today and for generations to come. The heart of America’s promise to provide economic and health security is more important now than ever before. Yet, many in Washington have vowed to shred our nation’s middle-class safety net by privatizing Medicare and Social Security and block-granting Medicaid.
Your Giving Tuesday contributions help us spread the word, educate and advocate in Washington to protect and strengthen, not privatize and cut benefits you have contributed to throughout your working lives.
Share our graphics with your friends and consider giving to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare on this Giving Tuesday. You can donate today.
Posted on 11/14/2016 10:35 AM By NCPSSM
Well, that didn’t take long. Just days after the election and already the GOP has confirmed, what we’ve been warning for months. Destroying traditional Medicare in favor of a privatized CouponCare system is at the top of the Republican agenda. In fact, they want it to happen as soon as next year.
“Below is a transcript of what Ryan said on Fox's Special Report, along with a flat out false statement suggesting that Obamacare has weakened Medicare's finances.
BRET BAIER: Your solution has always been to put things together including entitlement reform. That is Paul Ryan's plan. That's not Donald Trump's plan.
PAUL RYAN: Well, you have to remember, when Obamacare became Obamacare, Obamacare rewrote Medicare, rewrote Medicaid. If you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well. What a lot of folks don't realize is this 21-person board called the ipap is about to kick in with price controls on Medicare. What people don't realize is because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke, Medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, Medicaid is in fiscal straits. You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare. Those are part of our plan.” ...Talking Points Memo
Let’s be crystal clear about this – without Obamacare, Medicare’s Part A trust fund would have faced insolvency now. Instead, because of the cost savings in the Affordable Care Act, including; trimming the billions in government subsidies going to the insurance industry in Medicare Advantage and productivity adjustments to how Medicare pays providers the program gained more than a decade of solvency.
“The net result was that the “insolvency” date was extended by 12 years. Before the law was passed, the trustees said in 2009, the fund was going to be depleted in 2017. “The short-range financial outlook for the HI [hospital insurance] trust fund is substantially more favorable than projected in last year’s annual report, primarily as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” the Medicare trustees said in their 2010 report, saying the fund would last until 2029.”...Washington Post
Fact checkers appropriately gave Speaker Ryan Four Pinnochios for this obvious lie:
“Medicare certainly faces financial stress as the baby-boom generation begins to retire in full force, but it’s important to get the facts straight. It’s bad enough that Ryan, like many politicians, uses imprecise rhetoric such as “broke”; that’s a Two-Pinocchio violation. But the House speaker really went off the rails when he said on national television that Obamacare is making the program go broke. That’s the exact opposite of what happened.”
As we’ve said here before, repeal of the ACA will have an immediate impact on seniors. While Republicans continue their cynical promise that “reforms” won’t touch current seniors (because they believe America’s “greedy geezers” only care about their own benefits and don’t care about what happens to their children and grandchildren) the truth is, repealing Obamacare hits millions of American seniors immediately and robs the Part A trust fund of more than a decade of solvency:
“Medicare’s financing challenges would be much greater without the health reform law (the Affordable Care Act, or ACA), which substantially improved the program’s financial outlook. Repealing the ACA, a course of action promoted by some who simultaneously claim that the program is approaching “bankruptcy,” would worsen Medicare’s financial situation.”... Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“The Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare's financing by increasing efforts to reduce waste, fraud and abuse; slowing the rate of increase in payments to providers; improving quality of care and phasing out overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans, plans that are continuing to increase their enrollments each year. The impact of these provisions has already resulted in extending the solvency of the Medicare Part A Trust Fund by more than a decade and lowering Part B out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries.
In addition to Medicare beneficiaries, the Affordable Care Act is very important to millions of adults ages 50-64 who are uninsured because they do not have access to affordable private insurance. Many of these individuals are now able to purchase private insurance even if they have pre-existing medical conditions, and costs are more affordable due to the law's limits on age rating and the subsidies available for lower-income beneficiaries.
The number of uninsured “young seniors,” aged 50-64, would increase, leaving them in poorer health by the time they are eligible for Medicare – thereby increasing Medicare’s costs.”...NCPSSM, 2015 ACA Repeal Letter to Congress
And all of this only addresses the clearly false assertion made by Speaker Ryan that Medicare is going “bankrupt” and that Obamacare is the reason. What is equally important for seniors to understand is what Ryan’s CouponCare plan actually means for them. We’ll address that more completely in a future post but as a reminder: the Ryan plan will end traditional Medicare, privatizing it, while raising seniors’ costs. Under CouponCare seniors pay more for less coverage.
The GOP’s voucher plan works this way:
• Rather than you going to your doctor and Medicare pays the bill, under CouponCare the federal government will give you a voucher each year that you will then use to go out and buy private insurance out in the open market or to pay for Medicare.
• However, those coupons’ values are based on the cost of Medicare in a particular community or the second lowest private health insurance plan, whichever is cheaper. So if, you choose to stay in traditional Medicare, and it costs more than virtually the cheapest plan out there, you’ll pay more. Let’s be really clear, vouchers are designed to shift costs to seniors. That’s how the government saves money.
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 59% of seniors would have to pay higher premiums in order to receive the same Medicare plans they now have, with the average premium increase coming in at $107 per month, they didn’t even look at co-pays and out-of-pocket costs.
The Congressional Budget Office looked at this in 2011 and said it would double beneficiaries’ costs.
After George Bush won re-election in 2004 and the Republicans controlled Congress, privatizing Social Security was the first order of business. Here were go again -- but this time your Medicare is the target. The American people don’t support privatizing Medicare; however, it has long been the goal of conservatives who believe seniors should be forced back into a private insurance marketplace which history has proven, over and over again, they simply can’t afford.
Posted on 11/2/2016 12:43 PM By NCPSSM
As a 2106 Influencer in Aging honoree, NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, answered the question: “What is the one thing you would like to change about aging in America?” Max’s answer can be found in Forbes, Next Avenue and we’ve reposted it here:
Why We Must Combat Ageism In America
By Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
(Next Avenue invited all our 2016 Influencers in Aging to write essays about the one thing they would like to change about aging in America. This is the first of the essays.)
Bette Davis famously said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” If you or someone you love has been there, you’ll likely agree.
Thankfully, Americans have Social Security and Medicare to help ease their transition into retirement and improve the likelihood they’ll age financially and medically secure. Social Security keeps 22 million Americans out of poverty, while Medicare provides universal health care for 55 million seniors and people with disabilities.
Pitting Young vs. Old
Social Security and Medicare are among our nation’s most successful federal programs, touching the lives of virtually every American family. In spite of this, these programs continue to be political targets by those who have tried to pit young vs. old, creating a generational battle over limited budget resources.
Portraying America’s parents and grandparents as “greedy geezers” who care only about their own benefits (which they’ve earned after a lifetime) at the expense of future generations is one of the most pernicious examples of the ageism that is all too common in our nation. We see it in the workplace, in public debate, between generations and in social policy.
Time for Government Leaders to Address Ageism
If I could change one thing about aging in the U.S., it would be how our government leaders address ageism through public law. They must ensure that all retirees and their families, present and future, have ample and easy access to health, income and job security, community supports and a robust aging network that offers choice, independence and dignity.
The retirement of America’s Baby Boom generation has provided us with a unique opportunity to create innovative and responsive aging policies that would serve our nation well for generations to come. Unfortunately, we have not done enough to modernize and revolutionize our aging policies.
It’s not like we didn’t know the boomers would retire someday. America built schools when this growing demographic was young, houses as it matured and large surpluses in the Social Security Trust Fund in anticipation of its retirement. However, now that 10,000 boomers turn 65 each day, the graying of America is too often presented as simply a drain on our national resources and — even worse — used as an opportunity to pit generations against each other.
How Ageism Hurts America
Ageism, sadly, pervades our policy discourse, squandering this unique opportunity in our history to create policies, systems and programs that tap into the wealth of experience, knowledge and opportunities that our aging community provides.
The 14 percent of America that is now over 65 should be at the heart of public policies to improve our nation’s health care system and to increase employment opportunities, fair housing, and economic equity that can stretch across all generations.
Let’s remember these words of former Vice President Hubert Humphrey: “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
We must fight back against ageism, which ignores the reality that America is strongest when the young, old and everyone in between are economically empowered, healthy and secure.