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Weekly News Recap:
Passing of a Leader: Of course, the big news this week was the passing of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy who championed health care reform for nearly 50 years. Whether you agreed or disagreed with his policies, there is no doubt that he faithfully served our country for many years and dedicated his life to improving the livelihood of all Americans.
House Bill Details: The current recess has provided an opportunity for researchers to analyze the bill and make the details known to the public. Two interesting subjects came up this week. First, the Congressional Research Service found that the current House bill allows illegal aliens to receive benefits under a government system. Second, two lawmakers said that a provision in the bill that allows a public health plan to negotiate payments with providers could be dropped by the House panel. Those opposing the provision say it would drive costs up for consumers rather than lower them.
CMS Medicare Project Success: CMS announced on Wednesday that several of its demonstration projects provide strong evidence that financial incentives can increase the quality of care for Medicare patients and reduce the growth of Medicare expenditures. The VBP (value-based purchasing) initiative, the HQID (hospital quality incentive demonstration), and the MCMP (medicare care management performance) demonstration are all showing that actively paying for high quality care is a much better way to manage Medicare than just being a passive payer of any kind of treatment.
Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information
Tags: Senior Market Advice, Senior Market Success, senior market blog, senior market news, Web Marketing Advice, Web Tips, Medicare, Medicare Supplement, Senior Market, Medicare News, senior insurance market news, CMS
Earlier this week, the White House made a bold announcement to possibly utilize a political process called “reconciliation” to bypass the need for bipartisan support of health care reform legislation in the Senate. With this process, only a simple majority of 51 votes is needed to get a vote on the senate floor rather than the normal 60. Despite the threat, the White House says it is still willing to listen to any perspective and do its best to gain bipartisan support.
According to CNN, a Democratic-only plan would not be supported by the majority of the American public. CNN cited a Quinnipiac University poll that shows 59% of Americans are opposed to a Democratic-only bill with 36% in support. Perception of Republican efforts at health care reform is worse with an NBC News poll showing approval by only 21% of Americans.
Currently, if the White House does choose to execute reconciliation, it will still have to work hard to gain consensus among its own party, as there is still much debate between liberal and conservative Democrats. We’ll keep you posted.
In other news:
AP reports that Medicare drug premiums will see a slight increase in 2010, which will equate to about a $2 rise in seniors’ monthly payment for prescription drug coverage next year. CMS announced that the average monthly premium will be about $30 next year.
An LTC insurance study by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance shows that in 2008 nearly 50% of all buyers were under 65, while roughly 10% were between 45 and 54. 66% of buyers were women, and the average single premium was $70,975. This study analyzed more than 5,000 new policies. The overall market outlook from the group is positive with sales expected to increase in the coming years.
Lastly, I came across an interesting press release by ProspectZone on InsuranceNewsNet.com. It discusses how calling new insurance leads in the evenings and weekends is a better way to capitalize on those leads rather than calling during normal business hours. For those of you who do this, do you agree? Do you get a better response when contacting clients during off hours?
Sources: CNN, AP, SMA, INN
Town halls across the country have become the primary battlegrounds of the health care reform debate, with both sides engaging in heated exchanges including shouting, derogatory remarks, and even physical conflict.
Senior citizens have emerged as one of the most outspoken groups, as they are amassing in town hall meetings across the country and voicing their concerns about the impact reform will have on the current Medicare system. According to a Yahoo News article, several polls show senior citizens largely disapprove of current health care reform ideas. The article cited a July 31 Gallup Poll that found just 20% of senior citizens believe health care reform will improve their own situations.
As the highest voting demographic of the country, it appears seniors are finally being heard as President Obama addressed them directly in his own town hall meeting on Tuesday. President Obama attempted to allay those concerns by stating “We are not talking about cutting Medicare benefits.” With the Obama administration cutting billions from Medicare, many seniors remain skeptical.
Supporters of reform explain that the proposed changes to Medicare would not result in a loss of care; rather it would lead to a more affordable system that makes drugs more affordable and eliminates co-pays for preventative care like cancer screenings. Obama explained that eliminating the $156 billion given to private insurance companies for Medicare Advantage would help make this possible. Reform supporters are trying to convince seniors that cutting the costs of Medicare will ensure its long-term survival.
Critics of health care reform are informing seniors that the proposed $380 billion cut to Medicare will lead to long waits, higher premiums, doctors dropping patients, and less coverage. Some critics are going to the extreme to leverage seniors’ fears by explaining that reform would institute medical “death panels” that would have power to stop treatment if it became too expensive and force such patients into end-of-life options.
Obama addressed this by explaining that Medicare would simply reimburse doctors for counseling patients who choose to receive counseling on end-of-life options like hospice care. Obama also pointed out that some republican senators support this.
With the 2010 elections nearing, both sides of the health care reform issue are out in full force trying to convince seniors to vote for candidates that support their respective views. With only 20% of seniors feeling positive about reform, a lot of work remains for those in favor of it.
Sources: Yahoo News, MedPageToday, CNN
Tags: senior market blog, senior market news, Medicare Advantage, Health Insurance, Medicare, Medicare Supplement, Senior Market, Medicare Discussion, Medicare News, senior insurance market news, health insurance news, Medicare Advantage News
At the end of last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare payments for hospice care will increase by 1.4% in 2010. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) stated on August 3 that the announcement is a victory for hospice providers who have been long battling against the elimination of the budget neutrality adjustment factor (BNAF).
For those of you not familiar with the subject, the elimination of the BNAF will substantially cut Medicare’s payments for hospice care. This primary reason for the cut provided by CMS is that it improves financial stewardship of the Medicare Trust Fund.
Originally, the Medicare hospice reimbursement cuts associated with the elimination of the BNAF were to occur in 2 years, but the new ruling spreads these cuts out over seven years. The BNAF will be reduced by 10% in FY 2010, and by 15% each year from 2011-2016. Despite the small victory, the NHPCO plans to continue the fight to completely reverse the decision to eliminate the BNAF.
According to the CMS, the hospice payment increase is due to a 2.1% increase in one of its indicators of input price increases, offset by a 0.7% decrease in payments to hospices in accordance with the policy to phase out its wage index budget neutrality adjustment factor. Additionally, the CMS considered the current, harsh economic condition of the hospice care market, and the increasing demand for improved access to such services.
Sources: CMS, Senior Journal