Medicare Watch

Your Weekly Medicare Consumer Advocacy Update

White House Reports on 2015 Conference on Aging

January 7, 2016

White House Releases Summary of the 2015 Conference on Aging

Last week, the final report for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging was released summarizing the work done by the conference and the feedback received by older adults, caregivers, and advocacy groups. Taking place during the 50th year of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, and the 80th year of Social Security, the conference and the report highlight the importance of these programs and initiatives to improve benefits for today’s seniors and future generations.

Leading up to the conference, Medicare Rights advocated for enhanced support for people with Medicare, including better information for people nearing Medicare eligibility and transitioning from existing coverage. The report highlights the Administration’s response to this advocacy through a combined effort by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration to improve education materials about Medicare enrollment and creating online information and frequently asked questions to prevent Medicare enrollment confusion.

Additionally, the report recognizes the concerns express by Medicare Rights and others surrounding the level of confusion about when to enroll in Part B and the adverse financial consequences of inappropriately delaying enrollment. The report takes note of recommendations to create a federal interagency process to further improve notification for people nearing Medicare eligibility and expresses a commitment to finding better ways to educate this population as well as employers about Medicare enrollment.

Read the report.

Medicare Rights Submits Comments on Proposed Discharge Planning Rules

This week, the Medicare Rights Center submitted comments in response to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed rule on discharge planning. The proposed rule sets out requirements for hospitals and home health agencies to identify, counsel, and provide information to beneficiaries who will need care in their homes or in post-acute settings like skilled nursing facilities or rehabilitation centers. The rule seeks to create standards and expectations for the planning process when a person is leaving hospital care or ending home health care.

Medicare Rights applauds the rule’s recognition of family caregivers, and its emphasis on promoting patient goals through person-centered discharge planning. The comments also lend support to the rule’s description of essential elements involved in discharge planning, including the need for collaboration with community-based organizations.

Medicare Rights also suggests that CMS explore policies to ensure that hospitals and private health plans work together to promote seamless discharge planning. The comments also encourage CMS to take into account the varying capacities and financial resources of hospitals and home health agencies and to provide technical assistance and support to those entities as the revised discharge planning rules are implemented.

Read Medicare Rights’ comments.

Read the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from CMS.

Volume 7, Issue 1

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Medicare Reminder

You can switch from your Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP). You can only make this coverage change if you currently have a Medicare Advantage plan. The MADP occurs every year from January 1 to February 14.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan you will be able to switch to Original Medicare, and choose whether to also enroll in a stand-alone prescription drug plan. Changes made during the MADP will become effective the first of the following month.

Note: If you disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan federal law does not usually give you the right to buy a Medigap plan. The laws in your state might give you more rights. Medigap plans are supplemental polices that help pay for Original Medicare deductibles and coinsurances. You should check with your SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) to find out if and when you can enroll in a Medigap plan in your state.

Read more about changing your Medicare Advantage plan.



Part of an ongoing effort to provide more transparency and health care data, the White House recently announced a new tool called the Medicare Drug Spending Dashboard. The tool provides public information about how much money is spent on prescription drugs in Medicare Part B and Part D. The tool can be used to learn key facts about prescription drug spending, including the top Part D prescription drugs with the highest total spending, medicines with the largest percent increase in price, and prescription drugs with the highest cost-sharing for beneficiaries.

Read the White House announcement.

Access the Medicare Drug Spending Dashboard.


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