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Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information

Health Care Law Aims to Reduce Hospital Readmissions

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 @ 09:33 AM

Medicare SupplementsThe New England Journal of Medicine released a study on Medicare recipients finding themselves back in the hospital less than 30 days after their original discharge in 2003 and 2004. The study found one in five of these patients was readmitted and as many as three-quarters of those could have been prevented.  The best way to avoid readmissions is coordinating care from the hospital to those responsible for the next phase of the patient’s recovery. Confirming the patient has the best medicine, knowledge of proper diet, and follow-up appointments is crucial to overall recovery and to prevent their hospital readmission. MedPAC estimated that in 2005 hospital readmission cost Medicare $15 billion, $12 billion of which could have been prevented with the proper knowledge of the patient and their care taker. The proposed health care law hopes to reduce these costs by penalizing hospital with a higher than expected readmission rate starting with 1% of Medicare payments in 2012 and increasing in the next years.

Some hospitals already have a post-care transition program in process, including Piedmonth Hospital in Atlanta. At Piedmonth Hospital, patients schedule their follow up appointment while still in the hospital, receive a form describing why they were in the hospital and what they can do for their recovery at home, any diet and exercise restrictions, and within three days of their discharge a nurse calls to check on their progress. This process has paid off, reducing patients under 70s readmission from 13 to 4% and those over 70 from 16 to 11%.

What do you think of the way the Piedmonth Hospital in Atlanta is handling readmissions? Do you think cutting payments to hospitals will help them to follow suit?

Study Shows Elective Surgery in Medicare Beneficiaries Varies by Region

In a study from the Dartmouth Atlas Project of elective procedures in patients over 65, and receiving Medicare, the researchers found regional differences in the way doctors treat their patients. Shannon Brownlee, of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, explains that this difference is “the by-product of a doctor-centric medical delivery system.” The study focused on Medicare data from 2003 to 2007 on the rates of some elective procedures, from mastectomies for breast cancer to carotid artery surgery and found that doctor’s opinions on the surgeries varies greatly by cultures of care, how doctors are trained, and the history of where there medical practice is established. This finding suggests that patient preferences are not necessarily being taken into account when they should be.

What do you think of the findings of this study? Do you think Medicare beneficiaries should be more involved in their care, no matter what region of the United States they live in? Or do you think doctors should make the right choice for their patients?

"Pie Chart" by Nick Anderson, the Washington Post

Pie Chart by Nick Anderson
"Pie Chart," Nick Anderson and the Washington Post Writers Group in conjunction with the Cartoonist Group

Assured Life Medicare Supplement Now Available in Virginia

Effective February 23, 2011 Assured Life Medicare Supplement Plan N is available in Virginia – please see the Assured Life Plan N Virginia Notification and Assured Life Plan N Virginia Rates.

Why Sell Medicare Supplements Over the Phone

Also - Discover the pros of selling Medicare Supplements over the phone in our blog post.


Sources: KHN, Routers

Tags: senior market news, Medicare News, Assured Life Medicare Supplement, health care reform, industry news

The Benefits of Selling Medicare Supplements Over The Phone

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 @ 02:21 PM

If you are just getting into selling in the senior market or you have been in the industry for a long time, selling Medicare Supplements over the phone is a great way to help grow your business. When you sell over the phone, you broaden your selling horizons beyond your immediate driving area and give yourself a virtually unlimited selling area with little to no travel necessary. Also, you can connect with a whole new market in a different city or state, no matter the distance from you. When you sell Med Supp over the phone, you can begin prospecting in an area with a larger senior population than the one you currently live in, all from the comfort of your home or office.

Also, a benefit of selling over the phone is the ability to increase your income by increasing your productivity. Since you will not have to set up meetings, travel to your client's location, or wait around for client's to come to your office you will waste less time and be more productive. In the time you save you can make more calls, connect with more clients, and create more business. There are 10,000 seniors turning 65 every day in the United States, be sure you are taking advantage of the booming Med Supp market.

Starting this year, the baby-boomers are becoming eligible to receive their benefits from Medicare. The baby-boomer generation is a new type of senior, experienced in using computers and the internet for both business and personal reasons. Many Boomers are technologically savvy and comfortable doing business over the phone and online, without meeting their agent in person. Some seniors may even prefer doing business this way, as some clients no longer feel the need to meet face-to-face and shake hands, when contact over the phone is just as convenient. More and more, an agent's website is becoming the face of their business and clients are getting a feel for you from a distance. Once they feel confident they will be able to reach you via email or phone for assistance or questions, they will have no problem doing business over the phone, no matter the distance between you.

There are several options for completing a policy over the phone. Some supplemental insurance companies like Mutual of Omaha offer electronic applications (or e-apps). The e-app process is very similar to the face-to-face meeting. While you speak to the client over the phone you are able to control what your client sees on his computer, go through the application as usual, and submit it for processing immediately. This e-application process speeds up enrollment and eliminates unnecessary paperwork and mailing costs. Otherwise, applications can either be faxed or mailed back after the client has completed and signed it.

The senior insurance market is exploding and selling Medicare Supplements by phone will help you use technology to your advantage and reach prospects virtually anywhere in the United States, from the comfort of your work space.

Fore more insights to selling Medicare Supplements over the phone, please contact Precision Senior Marketing, a Medicare Supplement Broker, committed to recruiting, servicing, and supporting the best senior market insurance agents.

Tags: Sales Tips, Success Tips, Web Marketing Advice, Web Tips, technology

Efforts to Defund the Health-Care Law Underway

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Feb 18, 2011 @ 09:35 AM

Medicare SupplementsThis week Republican Denny Rehberg put up an amendment to the pending House bill to fund the final seven months of the yearly budget and prohibit administration from using any of the money to put the health-care law into effect. His proposal is likely to make it into the House budget bill. However, Rehberg's bill faces two obstacles: the Democrats control of the Senate and the White House and that most of the funds needed for the law were put into the law itself. The only way to have access to those funds is for Congress to enact legislation rescinding them, which will be hard to do since the Republicans currently only have majority in the House. Therefore, Republican House members are putting wording in the budget bills stating that none of Congress’ operating costs for federal agencies can go toward the health-care law. The money in question is not actually for the law itself, but the administration costs needed to carry it out. If the spending bills are adopted, they could cause these processes to stop. Richard Sorian, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services uses the example "Even though the funds for seniors’ checks are not affected, the salary of the person mailing it out is."

Another way Republicans are hoping to halt the health-care law is by cutting off funding to the Internal Revenue Service. This week, Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers introduced an amendment to the spending bill preventing agency’s from paying IRS employees working to implement the health-care reform law’s individual and employer mandates. She also offered an additional bill blocking the IRS from hiring anyone to enforce the requirement that all individuals buy health insurance beginning in 2014. Also this week the IRS released their budget request of $118.8 million in 2012 to implement the employer and individual insurance mandates, as well as the other provisions. The health-care reform law will be a huge undertaking by the IRS and represents the largest set of tax law changes in two decades.

Most believe these bills are likely to die out in the Senate or have a presidential veto; however, Congress must agree on a budget bill before March 4th when the current funding will expire. Otherwise, there is a threat of government shutdown if no agreement can be made. However, McMorris Rodgers assures "We’re going to do everything we can to work with the Senate to avoid that."

What do you think of the efforts by the Republicans to defund the health-care law? Do you think they will be successful? Do you think Congress will be able to come to an agreement by their deadline of March 4, 2011?

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United of Omaha Now Available in Maine

Effective February 16, 2011 United of Omaha is available in Maine – please see the United of Omaha Maine Rates and Application.

Assured Life Now Available in Tennessee

Effective February 9, 2011 Assured Life Medicare Supplement is available in Tennessee – please see the Assured Life Tennessee Rates and Assured Life Tennessee Application.


Sources: KHN, The Washington Post, The Hill

Tags: Success Tips, technology, Medicare, Medicare News, Assured Life Medicare Supplement, health care reform, United of Omaha Medicare Supplement

Medicare Part D Price Increase for High Income Seniors

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Fri, Feb 11, 2011 @ 09:55 AM

Medicare SupplementsStarting in January more affluent seniors have begun to pay higher premiums for their prescription drug benefits. Since 2007 high income beneficiaries have paid more on a sliding scale for Medicare Part B but this is the first year that scale has included Medicare Part D as well. Additionally, the provision in the health care law froze the income threshold that determines their costs, and it will not be adjusted for inflation through 2019. Senior advocates warn that requiring high-income seniors to pay more for their Medicare premiums might encourage them to look elsewhere for their insurance coverage. This could be significant, as wealthier seniors also tend to be healthier, thus affecting the lower-income seniors left behind with increases. Still, supporters believe it makes sense to require seniors with higher incomes to pay more for their Medicare benefits because it is guarantee issue and community-rated. Switching to private insurance is risky and they doubt that seniors could get a better deal. At this time, James Blum, deputy of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service, is not aware of anyone leaving the program because of higher prices for their Part B coverage. Blum is confident more affluent seniors will continue to stay in the Part D program as well, citing that the Part D plan is generous and the 50% discount (beginning this year) on prescription drugs once they reach the doughnut hole. In the past, roughly 5% of Medicare beneficiaries had been paying the higher premiums; however, with the sliding scale no longer in place this will increase to 10% by 2019 raising approximately $36 billion for Medicare.

How do you feel about affluent seniors having to pay higher premiums for their Medicare Part D coverage as well?

The Diminishing Medicare Doughnut Hole

Starting in 2011 seniors who hit the doughnut hole will have substantial discounts on their prescription drugs, increasing over time and completely closing the gap by the year 2020. This is a significant part of the health care law because in the past those who reached the gap often stopped filling their prescriptions due to the financial burden. Previously, Medicare beneficiaries were responsible for 25% of their prescription drug cost and their drug plan paid the extra 75% until they reach a total of $2530 at which time the senior entered the doughnut hole. However starting this year after reaching the doughnut hole beneficiaries will get a 50% brand-name and 7% generic drug discount until they have spent $3607.50. At that time the senior will be out of the doughnut hole and the drug plan will cover approximately 95% of the prescription drugs for the remainder of the year. By 2020 Medicare beneficiaries will only be responsible for 25% of their bill, no matter how large. This year alone the new plan will save approximately 4 million low-income seniors up to $1800 each. However critics believe this will result in drug companies raising the price on their drugs, to cover the difference. A price increase would affect all of those on Medicare not just those in the doughnut hole, creating another problem needing a solution.

What do you think of the new Medicare Part D benefit? Do you think drug companies will raise their prices to cover the difference?

Medicare Select

Medicare Select

If you’re looking to offer your clients a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan to accompany their Medicare, SELECT Supplemental Insurance offers you a variety of choices. Medicare SELECT plans are essentially lower-cost versions of traditional Medigap Insurance Policies, saving your clients approximately 15% on their premiums. Also, since the risk pool is smaller, SELECT plans tend to have fewer increases as well. The primary difference is that Medicare SELECT Policies require a client to go hospital on the company’s network (except in the event of an emergency). Request more information on Medicare Select plans.

United of Omaha Approved in CA, NE and SD

Effective February 3, 2010 United of Omaha is released in Nebraska and South Dakota – please see the United of Omaha Nebraska Rates and the United of Omaha South Dakota Rates.

Effective February 16, 2011 United of Omaha is released in California - please see the United of Omaha California Rates and the United of Omaha California Application.

Request information or call your marketing representative at 1-800-998-7715 for more information on United of Omaha.

Forethought Now Available in KS and UT

Effective February 2, 2011 Forethought is released in Kansas and Utah – please see the Forethought Kansas Rates and Application and the Forethought Utah Rates and Application or call 1-800-998-7715 to get contracted.


Sources: KHN

Tags: Medicare Supplement, health insurance industry, health care reform, Forethought Medicare Supplement, United of Omaha Medicare Supplement, Medicare Select

Mutual of Omaha Medicare Supplement Plan N Changes

Posted by Lauren Hidalgo on Thu, Feb 03, 2011 @ 10:04 AM

Mutual of Omaha has announced underwriting changes to their Plan N Medicare Supplements. This will affect all Mutual of Omaha companies including United World and United of Omaha. Exceptions will include New York, where health questions may not be asked (per state regulations) and in open enrollment or other guarantee issue situations where health questions normally do not apply.

New Application (Required after February 16, 2011)

The underwriting changes will also bring about new applications. Where the new applications are already approved, the new underwriting guidelines will be effective with applications signed on or after February 16th 2011. The states are where the new applications have already been approved are:

United World: AL, MD, MN, MT, ND, NJ, NM, PA, UT & WY

United of Omaha: AR, AZ, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KY, LA, MI, MO, MS, NC, NH, OH, OK, OR, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV & WI

Commission Changes

This change will also affect commissions on Plans M and N. Mutual of Omaha will have new commission schedules available shortly, but you can expect commissions on all plans to be uniform.

Here is a link to the announcement from Mutual of Omaha and more detailed information.

Even with these changes, Mutual of Omaha will continue be a leader in the Medicare Supplement marketplace. That being said, this will open up many new doors to other Medicare Supplement companies that want to offer guarantee issue or limited underwriting plans.

Tags: Medicare Supplement, Senior Market, industry news, Mutual of Omaha Medicare Supplement, United of Omaha Medicare Supplement

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