Today’s Hot Topics in Medicare News

medicare for all, hands raised with medicare cards

Is Medicare-for-all a winning message for midterm elections? DSCC chairman weighs in

BY CAITLIN CONANT: Going into the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats have this theory of the race: Voters care about “pocketbook issues” and are looking at promises that President Trump and Republicans made in 2016 but haven’t delivered on — like the rising costs of prescription drugs and healthcare. Facing a challenging political map that requires Democrats to defend 26 Senate seats, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman, is hoping that healthcare will be a winning message for the party this fall.  (read more)

Medicare Part B premiums devouring many retirees’ Social Security increase, survey shows

BY SARAH O’BRIEN: For many of the 47 million older Americans on Social Security, getting a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in their 2018 benefits has been a bust.

More than 40 percent of the over-65 crowd say they have watched the extra amount get completely or mostly eaten up by the cost of Medicare Part B premiums, according to a recent survey by the Senior Citizens League.

Specifically, 25 percent say that after the deduction for the premium, their check is unchanged. Another 18 percent say the increase has been less than $5. (read more)

Ideology threatens to trump facts in official Medicare handbook

BY MARK MILLER: In September, the federal government will mail a handbook on Medicare enrollment to 43 million households. “Medicare & You” is an important, authoritative source on a wide array of plan options for the annual enrollment period that runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, and it has been mailed out to beneficiaries each year since 1999.

But this year, advocate groups for seniors are crying foul over language contained in a draft of the 2019 handbook edition sent to them for review by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The Medicare Rights Center and two other groups (Justice in Aging and the Center for Medicare Advocacy) argue that the draft contains inaccurate, ideologically tinted descriptions of the tradeoffs between original fee-for-service insurance and a privatized managed-care alternative. (read more)

Check out how much Medicare spends on drugs

BY TAMI LUHBY: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spent $174 billion on prescription medications in 2016, or 23% of its total budget, the agency reported Tuesday. That’s up from $109 billion, or 17% of the budget, in 2012.

The agency released the data in conjunction with its newly redesigned Drug Spending Dashboard, which contains a wide array of information on drug usage and costs in Medicare and Medicaid for 2016.

The Obama administration rolled out the interactive database several years ago, providing 2014 and 2015 figures for a few dozen drugs that met certain criteria, including high total spending. The data is used by researchers, journalists and non-profit groups to keep tabs on trends in drug prices and abuses by physicians. (read more)

Seniors paid more for generics in Medicare Part D plans

BY ED SILVERMAN: Even before the much-debated spike in generic drug prices occurred a few years ago, seniors who obtained these medicines through Medicare Part D plans were increasingly paying more than they had previously, according to a new analysis.

Why? Generics were being placed on insurance formularies that required seniors to pay more out-of-pocket costs. These formularies are lists of medicines for which insurance coverage is provided, but there are different tiers, or levels, and insurers were continually placing more generics on higher tiers that require greater out-of-pocket spending. (read more)

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