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Today’s Hot Topics in Medicare News

Drilling Down on Dental Coverage and Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries

BY MEREDITH FREED, TRICIA NEUMAN, and GRETCHEN JACOBSON: Oral health is an integral part of overall health, but its importance to overall health and well-being often goes unrecognized. Untreated oral health problems can lead to serious health complications. Having no natural teeth can cause nutritional deficiencies and related health problems. Untreated caries (cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease can exacerbate certain diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and lead to chronic pain, infections, and loss of teeth. Lack of routine dental care can also delay diagnosis of conditions, which can lead to potentially preventable complications, high-cost emergency department visits, and adverse outcomes.

Medicare, the national health insurance program for about 60 million older adults and younger beneficiaries with disabilities, does not cover routine dental care, and the majority of people on Medicare have no dental coverage at all. Limited or no dental insurance coverage can result in relatively high out-of-pocket costs for some and foregone oral health care for others. This brief reviews the state of oral health for people on Medicare. It describes the consequences of foregoing dental care, current sources of dental coverage, use of dental services, and related out-of-pocket spending. (read more)

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There's never been an easy way for Medicare beneficiaries to save on services and products not covered by Medicare alone, until now.

Hospitals could lose $800 billion from Medicare buy-in, AHA says

BY SUSANNAH LUTHI: Hospital groups on Tuesday pushed back against mounting Democratic support for a public option, saying the policy will lower Medicare reimbursement for providers as people leave commercial plans.

In a new analysis of a universal Medicare buy-in policy, the American Hospital Association and Federation of American Hospitals on Tuesday projected hospitals would lose $800 billion over a decade through the lower Medicare reimbursements and raise premiums within the private market—disrupting the employer insurance market where the majority of people get coverage.  (read more)

OPINION: The probable pitfalls that ‘Medicare For all’ proponents must address

BY TIANA LOWE: With every single serious 2020 contender, save for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., backing “Medicare For all,” it’s time to address a number of enormous elephants in the room.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., recently refiled an updated version of the bill with the backing of more than 100 co-sponsors. Those endorsing the plan to effectively nationalize one-fifth of our economy must finally face tough questions. How Democrats plan to pay for single payer, conservatively estimated at $32.6 trillion in its first decade, may be the least of their concerns, especially in the long run. (read more)

Democrats support expanding Medicare, with some caveats that could matter to voters

BY AMANDA BECKER and GINGER GIBSON: After launching his 2020 presidential bid last week, John Hickenlooper took a different stance on establishing a “Medicare-for-all” government health insurance program than many of his Democratic competitors.

“I probably would oppose Medicare-for-all just because there are over 150 million people, Americans who have some form of private insurance through their business, and the vast majority of them are happy with that,” the former Colorado governor said on MSNBC. He added he supported reaching universal health insurance coverage by another route. (read more)

Avoiding Overtreatment Saves Medicare $320M Over 3-Year Period in Older Men With Prostate Cancer

BY TONY BERBERABE: Overtreating men 70 years or older with prostate cancer cost Medicare more than $1.2 billion from 2004 to 2007, according to the results of a retrospective study using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results–Medicare linked database. Ronald Chen, MD, MPH, and colleagues determined that the median per-patient cost related to diagnosis and workup, treatment, follow-up, and morbidity management was $14,453, within 3 years post diagnosis.

“As researchers, we wanted to look at opportunities where we could reduce costs and still benefit the patient, especially opportunities where we’re not harming the patient,” said Chen in an interview with Targeted Therapies in Oncology. Reducing overscreening and overtreating of elderly men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer could reduce low-value healthcare services that can result in net harm to patients and also waste resources in the US healthcare system.  (read more)

The new Medicare Plus Card saves you up to 75% on things not covered by Medicare

Medicare doesn’t cover everything. Luckily, those on Medicare can now start saving on out of pocket expenses like prescription drugs, dental, vision, hearing, and more. Over 1 million people have already received their free Medicare Plus Card.

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