Today’s Hot Topics in Medicare News

medicare to cover addiction

Scott: Widen Medicare to cover addiction

BY ELIZABETH HEWITT: Gov. Phil Scott and members of his administration encouraged lawmakers in Congress Tuesday to consider expanding Medicare to cover opioid addiction services.

Scott and Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille appeared before a subcommittee of House Ways and Means to testify on Vermont’s experience combating the opioid crisis.

Loosening restrictions that currently bar the Medicare program from covering substance abuse services, like those offered through Vermont’s hub and spoke system, could help fight the opioid addiction crisis, they told the committee. (read more)

Bipartisan Senate Budget Deal Boosts Health Programs

BY JULIE ROVNER AND SHEFALI LUTHRA: In a rare show of bipartisanship for the mostly polarized 115th Congress, Republican and Democratic Senate leaders announced a two-year budget deal that would increase federal spending for defense as well as key domestic priorities, including many health programs.

Not in the deal, for which the path to the president’s desk remains unclear, is any bipartisan legislation aimed at shoring up the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance marketplaces. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) a vote on health legislation in exchange for her vote for the GOP tax bill in December. So far, that vote has not materialized. (read more)

Warren on Medicare for All: ‘Taxpayers Have Helped Make Insurance Companies Wildly Profitable’

BY NICHOLAS BALLASY: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said taxpayers should demand “fair treatment” from health insurance companies in return for making them “wildly profitable” with subsides over the years.

With Obamacare fully implemented, Warren said health insurance companies will likely resist any government attempts to raise “coverage standards” any further.

“They will stamp their feet and threaten to walk away from the healthcare exchanges. My response? Give me a break. The five big publicly-traded insurance companies in this country, together, cover 125 million people and they are raking in cash – more than $17 billion in profits in the last year alone. So don’t tell me an industry that has $17 billion in profits to hand out to its investors and its executives in a single year cannot do right by the American people – just don’t tell me that,” Warren said during a recent address at the Families USA Conference. (read more)

CMS reboots effort to curb illegal Medicare billing

BY VIRGIL DICKSON: The CMS is restarting an initiative meant to prevent providers from illegally billing some Medicare beneficiaries for cost-sharing.

The agency will start sending new billing notices to providers this summer, alerting them when certain beneficiaries should not be billed for cost-sharing, according toa Feb. 2 notice to clinicians. 

The CMS first launched the effort last year after receiving reports that providers hit some patients that were dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid with coinsurance costs even though they were enrolled in a savings program. (read more)

Drug-Coverage Disclosures Are Due by March 1

BY STEPHEN MILLER: Each year, employers that provide prescription drug coverage to workers, dependents or retirees age 65 or older—individuals who are eligible for Medicare Part D—must disclose to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) whether their drug plan is “creditable” (at least as good as Medicare Part D’s prescription drug benefit) or “noncreditable” (not as good).

Plan sponsors must complete the annual online disclosure within 60 days after the beginning of the plan year—by March 1 for calendar-year plans. Disclosure is made online using the Disclosure to CMS Form on the CMS website. (read more)

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