Live Updates: Medicare & Politics

Biden is Committed to Securing Your $1,400 Check!

[February 5, 2021]

President Biden has voiced his determination to providing Americans financially struggling. Some might like to add, “Better late, than never,” but seniors are feeling relief knowing that Biden is on their side. 

“We can’t walk away from an additional $1,400 in direct checks that we proposed because the people need them,” said the president. He added that he is willing to negotiate on the details, “but I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people.”

Biden is open to further limiting the income level of who receives a stimulus check, not the total amount of the check.

“Further targeting means not the size of the check, it means the income level of people who receive the check and that’s something that has been under discussion. There hasn’t been a conclusion but certainly, he’s open to having that discussion,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

“I’ll have your back. I ask that you have mine,” Biden said.

Read more here.

Brooks-LaSure Named Leading Candidate For Biden’s CMS Administrator

[February 4, 2021]

Longtime Democratic health policy expert, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, has been named a top candidate for President Biden’s Medicare and Medicaid Agency. It has been rumored that Biden has been considering both Brooks-LaSure and North Carolina health secretary Mandy Cohen, who also served under the Obama administration. But in recent weeks, Brooks-LaSure has been seen as the clear frontrunner, sources said.

The next CMS administrator will be tasked with overseeing Biden’s efforts to expand Obamacare and erase much of Trump’s healthcare legacy. The top CMS job is one of the most consequential health posts in any administration. It oversees coverage for roughly 150 million people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, and it sets policies on everything from drug costs to physician payments. 

Read more here.

Medicare Advantage Enrollment Sees Nine Percent Increase This Year

[February 2, 2021]

Preliminary open enrollment data show that enrollment in Medicare Advantage is up by nine percent this year. A new study finds that this uptick in enrollment could be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why the growth?

  • In the survey, 29 percent of people chose Medicare Advantage due to the prescription drug coverage, 16 percent because of affordability, and 9 percent due to the supplemental benefits.
  • Of the 9 percent that cited supplemental benefits, 35 cited COVID-19 supplemental benefits and 27 percent cited telehealth benefits. Other supplemental benefits cited were dental (62 percent), vision (52 percent), and over-the-counter benefits (38 percent).
  • The Congressional Budget Office predicts that 51 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in Medicare Advantage by 2030. 

Read more here.

[February 2, 2021]

Democratic leaders are preparing to use a process known as budget reconciliation, which would allow them to pass Biden’s proposal without getting 60 votes in the Senate–which would require at least 10 Republicans. Will there be a bipartisan agreement on relief aid or will the Democrats be forced to cut Medicare funding to feed the 1-in-7 families in America who can’t afford to feed their families?

The split in the Senate

Tension continues to build as Democrats are backing the President’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief proposal, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks and aid to local governments. Republican senators are challenging the relief plan, pushing for a smaller plan that would provide $1,000 checks.

Pay-As-You-Go Act

Democrats considering a maneuver to forgo bipartisan support to pass Covid-19 relief are confronting an unintended consequence: Doing so could automatically cut Medicare. Under a 2010 law, bills that add to the debt trigger automatic cuts. And preventing them would require Republican support.

Democratic leaders are preparing to use a process known as budget reconciliation, from the Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, known as PAYGO, which would allow them to pass Biden’s proposal without getting 60 votes in the Senate, a decision that would require at least 10 Republicans.

Under PAYGO, new laws that raise the national debt automatically trigger offsetting cuts in some safety net programs, like Medicare

Read more here.

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U.S. Continues to Hold Highest Prescription Drugs Costs Nationally

[January 29, 2021]

Prescription drug prices in the U.S. continue to topple prices around the world. According to a RAND Corporation report, prices in the U.S. are averaging 2.56 times those seen in 32 other nations, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

The most recent data on prices for prescription drugs in the U.S. was collected in 2018, which reported a 256 percent higher cost of drugs than 32 comparison countries. 

High prices for brand name drugs

For brand-name drugs, U.S. prices were a costly 3.44 percent higher than other nations. But for generic drugs, they were only 84 percent of the average paid in other nations. Prices for unbranded generic drugs have been slightly lower in the U.S. than in most other nations. But that is not saying a lot. 

“Brand-name drugs are the primary driver of the higher prescription drug prices in the U.S.,” said Andrew Mulcahy, lead author of the study and a senior health policy researcher at RAND. “We found consistently high U.S. brand name prices regardless of our methodological decisions.”

Missing data

Although several prior studies compared drug prices in the United States with those in other countries, the most recent of these studies used data that are almost a decade old. Some pharmaceutical experts do not think it’s a coincidence that prescription cost data remains missing. 

What do you think? Are you struggling to pay your prescription drug costs? Read more about how to lower your Medicare Part D costs here

Read more here.

[January 28, 2021]

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) makes motor neurons atrophy, causing patients to lose control of movement, speech, and eventually, breathing. Because degeneration can happen very quickly, ALS treatment can drain a family’s finances in a matter of months.

Last month Congress passed a bill that allows ALS patients to have access to support earlier in their diagnosis. 

The bill:

  • Eliminates the five-month waiting period for ALS patients to begin receiving benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.
  • Under SSDI, patients are immediately covered by Medicare.
  • The average monthly SSDI benefit is set to resemble last year’s benefit in June of $1,259.
  • Other incurable diseases that incur disability, such as metastatic breast cancer, are advocating for the same provisions. 

Read more here.

[January 28, 2021]

With Americans 65+ now receiving their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, many are beginning to worry about the wait time for their second dose. The U.S. has continued to experience delays in vaccine distribution which has sparked concern about the duration of wait time between doses. Health experts are explaining why a longer wait may not be a big deal after all. 

“It’s really not a problem,” says David Topham, expert microbiologist, and immunologist for the University of Rochester in New York. Fortunately, these delays do not necessarily mean disaster. 

The FDA has since acknowledged that spacing doses a little farther apart may not hurt. In the Pfizer-BioNTech clinical trials, participants received their shots 21 days apart; Moderna participants received theirs 28 days apart. 

On January 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CMS) said it’s okay to receive a second vaccine dose as many as four days early, or 42 days after the first dose. 

Neither agency has much data on what extra time between shots does to the vaccines’ effectiveness, but the CDC considers it a “permissible risk.” 

What is important about vaccine doses? The most important factor of your COVID-19 vaccine doses is that both doses come from the same manufacturer. Once you receive your first vaccine dose, be sure you pre-schedule for your second-dose before you leave. 

For now, the FDA is standing by science and responded to the question of time between doses with this statement, “We know that some of these discussions about changing the dosing schedule or dose are based on a belief that changing the dose or dosing schedule can help get more vaccines to the public faster. However, making such changes that are not supported by adequate scientific evidence may ultimately be counterproductive to public health”.

Read more here.

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Biden’s COVID-19 Plan: Help is on the Way!

[January 28, 2021]

President Biden is wasting no time executing his COVID-19 plan. As soon as early February, there will be COVID-19 vaccines available at your local pharmacies. Under the Biden Administration, there will be 100 vaccination centers across the country added within the month and an additional pool of medical professionals available to administer said shots. 

President Biden’s national COVID strategy is as follows:

  • Activate the Defense Production Act to aid and direct all federal agencies and private industry to accelerate the manufacturing of vaccines and testing. This includes equipping all healthcare personnel with protective equipment, supplies needed to vaccinate people, and supplies for testing.
  • Use the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to set up 100 mass vaccination centers across the country, with special attention to areas and communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
  • By the beginning of February, have a federal pharmacy program to make vaccines available to local drug stores.
  • Enhance the number of Medical professionals who can administer the vaccine. This will include urging states to expand the number of health care workers eligible to administer vaccines, including waiving some licensing requirements. It is projected that 100,000 more public health workers will be added to help administer the vaccine program.

The president has assured America that “help is on the way,” but continues to remind us that the pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better.

“Unfortunately,” Biden said at a White House briefing, “the death toll will likely top 500,000 next month. It’s going to take months for us to turn things around.” As of Wednesday, January 27, more than 427,000 Americans have died from coronavirus.

Read more here.

Biden to Increase Number of Vaccines Sent to States

[January 27, 2021]

The vaccine rollout has not been going as smoothly as planned. President Biden announced yesterday that he plans to increase the weekly supply of COVID-19 vaccines sent to each state by 16 percent.

  • The vaccine supply would increase from 8.6 million to 10 million per week.
  • The government will inform states of coming vaccines three weeks ahead of time.
  • The Biden administration will purchase 100 million additional vaccine doses over the summer.
  • A new single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on the horizon, with 100 million doses to be available this summer, if it’s approved. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses taken 21 or 28 days apart, respectively. 

With each state handling the vaccine rollout differently, confusion and frustration abound. Dr. Anthony Fauci is hopeful that 85 percent of Americans will be vaccinated by the end of the summer, and the country will reach a “degree of normality” by the fall.

Read more here.

 

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