BY KIMBERLY MARSELAS: Some Senate Republicans are expressing skepticism about cutting spending on social programs — Medicare included — in the months leading up to the 2018 elections.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the Senate’s third-highest ranking Republican, said Congress should consider reducing long-term spending on those federal programs next year. But others told the Washington Post that they are wary of taking on the popular healthcare program that primarily insures the elderly.
The Post said it heard from at least 12 Republicans hesitant to make major cuts that could affect voters. (read more)
BY NANCY ALTMAN AND LINDA BENESCH: In an electrifying victory that will unquestionably change political calculations all over Washington, Doug Jones was just elected the next Senator from Alabama. If the Republican tax bill is not rushed through Congress before he takes office — an event likely to further infuriate an already roused electorate — Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) will have the power to stop the tax scam and its automatic cuts to Medicare.
By insisting that further action on the tax scam be delayed until the duly elected new Senator is seated, and then voting no, Collins has the opportunity to serve her constituents and the country; she can make up for her vote in favor of the tax bill two weeks ago. That vote, coming from the woman who helped save the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid last summer, was inexplicable, if she really cares about the ability of Americans to get the health care they need. (read more)
BY BOB HERMAN: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services may hire a contractor to track whether the companies that sell Medicare prescription drug plans are doing a good enough job, according to a document that outlines potential contractor tasks.
Between the lines: Many Medicare drug plans have been reprimanded for some serious violations, and CMS wants to figure out what’s going on. Seniors and disabled people who buy the plans often complain about bad service and inappropriate denials of drug coverage.
The details: There’s no guarantee CMS will hire a contractor, but the agency is testing the waters to see if an outside company can help determine “whether the Part D formulary and benefit offerings are being administered as approved” by law. (read more)
BY MAURIE BACKMAN: Countless seniors rely on Medicare for their health-related needs. But if you’re first learning about the program, navigating its various terminology can leave your head spinning. Here are a few commonly used terms associated with Medicare and what they mean to you.
1. Medicare premium
This is the amount you’ll pay in exchange for coverage under Medicare. Most enrollees don’t pay a premium for Medicare Part A. However, Parts B and D come at a cost. The average monthly Part B premium, for example, is $134. (read more)
BY PHILIP MOELLER: The rise of high-deductible employer health plans has created one of the most unpleasant surprises for older employees: anyone on Medicare is no longer allowed to make tax-free contributions to a health savings account (HSA).
To the further consternation of many such employees, anyone age 65 or older receiving Social Security benefits must, by law, also be signed up for Part A of Medicare. This requirement, seemingly unrelated to their health plan, also will end their ability to make HSA contributions. (read more)