Your Weekly Medicare Consumer Advocacy Update
Medicare Rights Supports Medicare Drugs Savings Act
Medicare Rights Pens Letters of Support to House and Senate After Introduction of Medicare Drug Savings Act
Last week, the Medicare Drug Savings Act was introduced in both the House and the Senate. If passed the bill would restore prescription drug rebates that were available to Medicare for low-income beneficiaries prior to the creation of the Part D benefit.
In letters sent to the bill sponsors, Senator Bill Nelson and Representative Kathy Castor, Medicare Rights said, “Rather than cutting Medicare benefits, we believe that securing lower drug prices must be a part of any legislative effort to achieve Medicare savings. The Medicare Drug Savings Act represents a responsible approach to securing over $120 billion in savings. This bill preserves beneficiary access to needed medications and shifts no additional costs to seniors and people with disabilities.”
Most people with Medicare simply cannot afford to pay more for health care. Half of all Medicare beneficiaries—over 25 million older adults and people with disabilities—live on annual incomes of $23,500 or less. Additionally, the average Medicare household spends 14 percent of their total income on health care costs, compared to 5 percent among non-Medicare households. Despite the facts, many Medicare savings proposals would force people with Medicare to pay more through the imposition of higher premiums or cost sharing.
According to Medicare Rights, “[The Medicare Drugs Savings Act] adopts a principled approach to controlling Medicare spending that protects beneficiaries unable to afford even higher health care costs.”
White House Conference on Aging releases policy briefs
Last week, the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) released a policy brief on long-term services and supports, a key focus area of the upcoming 2015 Conference. This brief follows one on healthy aging, which was released earlier in April. Two additional briefs, looking at retirement security and elder justice are to be released shortly.
The long-term services and supports policy brief reviews five topic areas important to the aging community: informal caregiving; formal services and supports; direct care workers; access to information and services; and financing long-term services and supports. These areas of focus are particularly important because 20 percent of seniors receive some assistance with their care needs—and the chances of needing such help increase with age. Sixty-two percent of those over 90 have some sort of functional limitation. But, the report finds, the majority of Americans have not planned for these needs.
The report also highlights some recent efforts by the Obama administration to improve long-term services and supports, including increases to access through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a renewed commitment to enforcing the right to community integration promised in the landmark US Supreme Court case Olmstead v. L.C.
Volume 6, Issue 16
Medicare covers therapy services that help you maintain your ability to function, prevent you from getting worse, or slow worsening symptoms. As long as you meet the following requirements, Medicare should cover your outpatient therapy whether or not your condition is temporary or chronic:
- You need the technical skills of a trained therapist to provide safe and effective treatment;
- Your doctor or therapist sets up the plan of treatment before you get care; and
- Your doctor regularly reviews the plan of treatment to see if changes are needed.
If you have Original Medicare, Medicare Part B generally covers 80 percent of the cost of each outpatient therapy service and you or your supplemental insurance is responsible for the remaining 20 percent. In 2014, there is a $1,900 therapy cap for physical and speech therapy combined and a separate $1,900 cap for occupational therapy. However, you may be able to continue receiving therapy past the cap if it is medically necessary. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it can set its own cost rules for physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
This week, the Medicare Rights Center and the Pension Rights Center released a call-to-action to tell Congress to protect and expand retiree benefits. Late last year, congressional representatives snuck an amendment into the omnibus spending bill which will allow severe cuts to the pensions of hundreds of thousands of retirees in certain underfunded multiemployer pension plans.
Additionally, in the first four months of 2015, lawmakers proposed drastic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid benefits for millions of seniors and low-income individuals.
Join the Medicare Rights Center and the Pension Rights Center in telling members of Congress that instead of cutting the hard-earned retirement benefits of millions of Americans, we should be working to protect and expand retiree benefits.