Today’s Hot Topics in Medicare News

map highlighting Florida, chart

Florida has most residents with Medicare Supplement insurance policies

BY OPEN MINDS: The state of Florida has more residents covered by a Medicare supplement insurance policy (also called Medigap plans) than any other state, at 834,958 lives covered in 2016. The states with the next highest Medicare supplement insurance enrollments are Texas, with 776,575 covered lives; Illinois, with 748,367 covered lives; Pennsylvania, with 660,554 covered lives; and California with 475,741 covered lives. The lowest enrollments were Hawaii, at 9,088 covered lives; the District of Columbia at 9,927 covered lives; and Alaska at 3,345 covered lives. Nationwide, about 13 million of the 38 million Medicare . . . (read more)

A scary retirement expense that shouldn’t terrify you

BY STEVE VERNON: Here’s a projection that’s likely to frighten a lot of people preparing for life after work: A married couple, both age 65, will need $280,000 on hand to cover health care and medical costs in retirement, according Fidelity. After taking into account Medicare premiums, deductibles and co-payments, that’s Fidelity’s 2018 estimate of the present value of lifetime payments for this hypothetical couple’s out-of-pocket medical costs.

But don’t panic. This married couple doesn’t really need to have $280,000 dedicated exclusively to medical costs. Indeed, that would be next to impossible for most couples because $280,000 is more than the total total retirement savings that two-thirds of workers age 55 and over have accumulated. (read more)

The big business of home health

BY BOB HERMAN: The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an influential body that studies health policy, is once again recommending Congress slash Medicare payments to companies that provide home health services.

The bottom line: MedPAC has criticized the home health industry for several years, arguing taxpayers are overpaying while companies are reaping large profits. This may seem like arcane payment policy, but it is growing in importance as more people are treated at home as a way to keep costs in check. (read more)

‘Choose Medicare Act,’ the latest Democratic health care proposal

BY MARLENE SATTER: Medicare may not be popular with Republicans, but Democrats are proposing yet another riff on the health care program as the party heads closer to common ground on single-payer.

The Hill reports that this latest iteration, called the Choose Medicare Act, was introduced by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-CT, and Jeff Merkley, D-OR. While it doesn’t go as far as the bill proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, it instead keeps private insurance going—although it would allow people covered by Affordable Care Act plans and plans provided by their employers to instead choose the new Medicare-based insurance plan if they want. (read more)

Just get your new Medicare card? Don’t fall for these scams

BY DAN CAPLINGER: Tens of millions of older Americans rely on Medicare to help them pay their healthcare expenses. Yet because older people are especially vulnerable to criminals who want to take advantage of them, many con artists like to target them by pretending to be affiliated with the Medicare program.

Ironically, it was the fear of identity theft and other fraud that prompted government officials to change the design of the Medicare card. Yet as program participants have started to receive the new cards in the mail, new scams have arisen that could potentially snare thousands of older Americans. Some of the tactics that con artists take to try to obtain money or key personal information from Medicare participants are particularly crafty, and so it helps to know in advance what to expect so you’ll know that it’s a scam if someone tries to trick you. (read more)

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