Congress Must Take Action to Protect Medicare Beneficiaries’ Access to Care
Medicare Rights Center, along with fellow beneficiary advocacy groups and physician associations, sent a joint letter to Congress asking policymakers to prevent a looming cut in Medicare payments to physicians that many claim would reduce access to doctors for Medicare beneficiaries. Unless Congress passes legislation to avert the physician payment reductions, which are required by the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, a nearly 30 percent cut in Medicare physician payment rates will take place on January 1. Since the enactment of the SGR as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Congress has taken action numerous times to avert the reductions in payments, including by voting to override the cuts five times in 2010 alone.
Medicare beneficiaries also face access barriers as a result of high health care costs. As such, it is of great importance that in finding federal funding to avert the cuts to Medicare physician payments, policymakers do not enact policies that will shift greater costs to beneficiaries or cut Medicare benefits. Such policies could include increasing costs or limiting coverage for Medicare supplemental plans, adding new coinsurance under Medicare, increasing Medicare premiums and deductibles, and increasing the Medicare eligibility age. Some or all of these policies may be under consideration by the supercommittee, the group of lawmakers charged with finding savings to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. As part of its ongoing effort to prevent cuts to Medicare that could harm beneficiaries, the Medicare Rights Center, in conjunction with a coalition of other organizations, sent another letter to policymakers today discussing the dangers of raising the Medicare eligibility age. The letter specifically argues that such policies would raise out-of-pocket health care costs for many older Americans.
Read the letter to Congress on preventing cuts to Medicare physician payments.
Read the letter to Congress against raising the Medicare eligibility age.
2012 Medicare Part B Premiums Are Lower Than Predicted
Today the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the 2012 Part B premium will be $99.90, lower than the $106.60 the Medicare trustees initially projected earlier this year. This represents a modest increase for the majority of people with Medicare, whose Part B premiums have been held at $96.40 since 2008 because there has been no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase in their Social Security checks. However, there will be a COLA increase in 2012, the average of which is estimated to be $43 per month for retired workers, which will more than offset the $3.50 Part B premium increase. In addition, those Medicare beneficiaries whose premiums were not frozen and who were subject to the standard $115.40 Part B premium in 2011, including those newly enrolled in Medicare during this past year, will see a decrease in their Part B premiums of $15.50 per month. Furthermore, the 2012 Part B deductible will be $140, a decrease of $22 compared to the 2011 deductible.
According to CMS, the lower-than-predicted Part B premium is partially the result of recent payment reforms and of savings achieved through crackdowns on fraud, waste and abuse. Such policies have purportedly led to a moderately stronger financial outlook for the Medicare program, in turn leading to a slower growth rate in premiums. In a press release, CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick stated that the premium numbers demonstrate the promise of Affordable Care Act (ACA) reforms that aim to help Medicare “[spend] health care dollars more wisely.”
Read the CMS fact sheet on Medicare premiums and deductibles for 2012.
Read Medicare Rights Center President Joe Baker’s statement on the announcement of 2012 Medicare premiums and deductibles.
A health savings account (HSA) is an account that someone who has a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) can contribute to on a tax-free basis. HSA funds are not taxed as long as they are used to pay for qualified medical expenses. Your current employer may oversee your HSA or you may have an individual HSA that is overseen by a bank, credit union or insurance company. If you have an HSA and you will soon be eligible for Medicare, it is important to plan ahead and understand how enrolling in Medicare will affect your HSA.
If you enroll in Medicare Part A and/or B, you can no longer contribute to your HSA. However, you may withdraw money from your HSA after you enroll in Medicare to help pay for medical expenses (deductibles, premiums, copays or coinsurances). If you use the account for qualified medical expenses, it will continue to be tax-free.
Learn more about health savings accounts and Medicare at www.medicareinteractive.org.
According to a new paper from Judy Feder, Lisa Clemans-Cope, Teresa Coughlin, John Holahan and Timothy Waidmann, the federal Medicare program, rather than states, should take the lead on reforms for the dual-eligible population—people who have both Medicare and Medicaid.
Read the paper to find out why.