The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must remove restrictions that hamper Medicare providers’ ability to offer telehealth services.
Chief among those limitations, according to Morgan Reed, executive director of the Connected Health Initiative, is the fact that the Medicare program’s reimbursement for telemedicine is anemic — which he says is hurting rural healthcare in America and negatively affecting beneficiaries’ health outcomes… Read More at Health Data Management
A recent article by Linda Qiu (8/7, PolitiFact online) quotes former Arkansas Governor and 2016 presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee from the recent Aug. 6 GOP debate: “illegals, prostitutes, pimps, (and) drug dealers” have taken from Social Security.
Huckabee has also employed a similar line for the Affordable Care Act, “If Congress wants to mess with the retirement program, why don’t we let them start by changing their retirement program, and not have one, instead of talking about getting rid of Social Security and Medicare that was robbed $700 billion to pay for Obamacare?” According to PoltiFact such an anti-Obamacare narrative is not new to the GOP, actually going back to the 2010 mid-term elections.
PolitiFacts ruling? “Obamacare doesn’t literally ‘rob’ Medicare. But the Affordable Care Act does include provisions that reduce future increases in Medicare spending. In other words, the law slows down the rising costs of Medicare.”
The PolitiFact finding adds, “It’s also important to note that the savings come at the expense of insurers and hospitals, not beneficiaries.”
A resident scholar at AEI (the American Enterprise Institute) Andrew Biggs is quoted in the PolitiFact story as saying, “While ‘robbed’ is a bit loaded, the idea that Medicare beneficiaries are getting less generous benefits in order that the ACA can offer health benefits to younger people isn’t outrageous.”
A recent online post (Oct. 28) in Forbes features another article by physician John C. Goodman. Dr. Goodman says senior citizens should still be concerned about Medicare ramifications of the Affordable Care Act. This latest report by Dr. Goodman describes a perhaps lesser-well-known provision in Obamacare which imposes pervasive budgetary constraints on Medicare expenditures. In prior years, Medicare was solely an entitlement. Meaning, the federal government was compelled to fund care both seniors and the disabled received. Now, the ACA imposes spending limits.
Dr. Goodman’s Forbes account additionally says, “One bad result is that that Medicare beneficiaries are likely to be pushed into a second tier health care system – where access to care will become increasingly difficult, as seniors less financially attractive to providers than become Medicaid patients.” Dr. Goodman adds, “The new law gives an Independent Payment Advisory Board the power to recommend cuts in reimbursement rates for providers of health care. Congress must either accept these cuts or propose its own plan to cut costs as much or more. If Congress fails to substitute its own plan, the board’s cuts will become effective.”
Beginning Monday, March 31, 2014, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to take up Medicare payment legislation; the House concurrently is working on redefining the full-time work week, at least as it would be under the ACA. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has also scheduled a test-vote for what’s known as the “doc fix”, a bill – one that supposedly prevents a 24 percent reduction in federally-based reimbursements to doctors treating Medicare patients. The proposed legislation is a “patch” and not a lasting remedy to the “Sustainable Growth Rate” (SGR) – this is what causes the regular cuts in provider pay that Congress must then undo via legislation.
Republican and Democratic leaders claim they’ve previously sought a way to repeal it – permanently – but the short-term legislation was needed to avoid the chance of seniors losing medical care if the current patch is allowed to expire, and reimbursement rates plunge.
The Senate is also considering a bill to extend unemployment benefits additionally by five months. The legislation, co-authored by five Republicans, cleared a crucial test, and therefore may pass.
As of March 31, 2014, the House was also scheduled to continue wrestling with the issue of perceived over-stepping by the Obama White House, with a vote on the “Save American Workers Act”. It’s being pushed by Rep. Todd Young, R. Ind. The bill repeals the 30 hour definition of full time employment under the ACA. Critics of the 30-hour starting point say it’s caused employers to cut hours and furlough employees, all to avoid the new employer mandate – requiring employers to provide health insurance to full-time employees.
Is Obama obsessed about not upsetting the apple-cart prior to mid-term elections this fall? Amy Payne, writing on the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry page, more or less poses this question. Payne points out that Obamacare mandates, which could spark protest, have already been postponed. Now the administration has halted proposed alterations to Medicare which weren’t part of the Affordable Care Act. Specifically these changes would affect Medicare Part D – which impacts seniors’ drug plans – within the structure of the program. The proposed changes would cut right through the heart of the current program: which affects choice. The administration argues less choice is actually helpful to seniors, because offering too many options would be confusing.
Fewer options for seniors with respect to drug availability in Medicare Part D, could also spell cancellation, or dramatic changes, to some 7.4 million Medicare Beneficiaries policies.
Does Congress want to supplant misguided Medicare policy with one reinforcing current policy deficiencies? A rare consensus has emerged on Capitol Hill, between three congressional committees: Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce in the House, and Finance in the Senate.
Each has agreed to replace the dysfunctional Medicare physician-payment system. This supposedly would no longer require Congress to act every year, heading off across-the-board cuts in physician fees, which the present day, awkward system, known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) requires. Annual “Doc Fix” legislation would no longer need to be enacted by Congress. Problematic is the fact the new fee schedule and payment plan would still be another government-based and run payment structure.
What shouldn’t be pursued at this point is a costly, long-term solution to the “doc-fix” dilemma, which in reality just more funding for an “un-reformed Medicare fee-for-service insurance model”, says commentator James C. Capretta, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
FedSmith.com (“an information portal for sources of information impacting the federal community and those interested in the Federal Government’s activities”) surveyed 2,500 federal employees and retirees and found that 92.3 percent believe federal workers should keep their current health insurance and not be compelled to enroll in ObamaCare. Only 2.9 percent say they should become part of the new health insurance exchanges.
Moreover, 96.1 percent say federal retirees should be able to stay with their retirement health insurance. Only 3.9 percent think they should get “Medicare in lieu of their current option.”
Thus, federal employees and retirees almost unanimously prefer to stay in their high-quality taxpayer-funded health insurance program, known as the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP), rather than being subjected to either ObamaCare or Medicare.
A look at the ideas of healthcare experts John Goodman and Laurence Kotlikoff. Medicare trustees tell us that the unfunded liability in Medicare as a result of Obamacare will be $34 trillion over the next 75 years. However, the two authors say that, “based on more plausible assumptions, such as those reflected in the ‘alternative’ scenario for Medicare produced by the Congressional Budget Office in June 2012, the long-term shortfall is more than $100 trillion.”
Hospitals are focusing on providing quality food because Medicare in 2012 began paying hospitals based partly on their patient-satisfaction scores, a change that is part of the federal “Obamacare” health care law. Medicare surveys do not ask about food, but it has been found that good food contributes to a hospital’s better-than-average overall satisfaction rates.