Tag Archives: medicare

New tip sheet urges journalists to advise Medicare members about the best plans to meet their needs

Trudy Lieberman

Every day, some 10,000 Americans become eligible for Medicare, a rate that’s projected to continue for the next 18 years, as the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis estimated in 2019.

For health care journalists, these startling numbers mean we have an important role to advise seniors on the best plans to meet their needs during Medicare’s annual open enrollment (Oct. 15 through Dec. 7). Our advisory role seems to become more important every year as costs rise and because we need to counteract the messages seniors get in the annoyingly frequent advertisements for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans.

Medicare open enrollment

During Medicare’s open enrollment period, seniors face a dizzying array of choices about whether to choose traditional Medicare or a MA plan or if they should add a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

So much advertising and reporting are devoted to MA and Part D plans that the more comprehensive coverage available to seniors through Medicare Supplement plans (also called Medigap) gets all but drowned out.

In a new tip sheet, health care journalist and former AHCJ president Trudy Lieberman (@Trudy_Lieberman) explains why reporters covering health care for seniors should write about the benefits of Medigap plans.

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Study estimates how often people on Medicare may be harmed by ‘low-value’ care

The conceptual map demonstrates that an overused service can lead directly to short- and long-term negative consequences for patients. This appeared in the article, “Development of a Conceptual Map of Negative Consequences for Patients of Overuse of Medical Tests and Treatments,” JAMA Internal Medicine, October 2018. It is reproduced here with permission of JAMA Internal Medicine.

It’s easy to understand the economic arguments against exposing people to medical treatments and tests that many experts say are unlikely to help them. But it’s been tougher to quantify medical reasons for avoiding what researchers call “low value” care.

A paper published July 23 in JAMA Health Forum may bring more clarity to the discussion.

About 1% of admissions for certain procedures widely considered to be of low value were linked to subsequent complications such as infections, foreign objects left in patients, falls and bedsores, wrote the authors of this paper, “Adverse events and hospital-acquired conditions associated with potential low-value care in Medicare beneficiaries.”

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to estimate hospital-acquired harms for U.S. Medicare beneficiaries associated with low-value care,” the authors wrote. Continue reading

Request to extend telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, and other story starters

There’s been a small flurry of stories and news updates on telehealth this summer.

On July 26, some 430 health systems, associations and companies sent a joint letter to Congress urging policymakers to extend telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Prior to the start of the pandemic, Medicare only covered telehealth visits for its beneficiaries living in defined rural areas who initiated the call from a provider’s office, according to Kyle Zebley, vice president of public policy for the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), which is co-leading the effort. Thanks to provisions covered by legislation such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, telehealth became a covered service for all Medicare beneficiaries regardless of area of residence or where calls were initiated. But it was designed as a temporary measure. Unless it’s made permanent, cautioned the ATA and other letter writers, Medicare beneficiaries and providers who have become accustomed to the service could fall off what advocates call a “telehealth cliff.” Continue reading

Journalist explains the importance of covering the financial toxicity Medicare members face

Photo by Derek K. Miller via Flickr

Photo: Derek K. Miller via Flickr

To the uninitiated, Medicare, Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare supplement plans can seem simple enough: Medicare covers 80% of hospital and physician costs and MA and supplement plans cover the rest.

But in reality, Medicare and its associated additional plans can be incredibly complex to navigate. This is one of many lessons that Kate Yandell has learned since 2018, when she began reporting on Medicare beneficiaries’ financial challenges after a cancer diagnosis. Continue reading

Journalists can help shed light on COVID-19 vaccine schemes

stock art for Flu Shot Risk

Photo: NIH Image Gallery via Flickr

It’s still difficult for many eligible older adults in parts of the U.S. to get COVID-19 vaccination appointments. And that’s exactly what con artists are counting on.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) are warning the public — especially elders — about several fraud schemes related to COVID-19 vaccines.

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