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.
Reading the news about COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts in recent weeks, I learned that my home county of Barnstable (better known as Cape Cod) is the oldest in Massachusetts by residents’ age. The average age of the county’s 213,000 residents is 53.3 years — among the highest in the nation.
That fact helps explain why we see so many television advertisements for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans all day every day during certain times of the year.
Regardless of where these ads run, the problem for senior citizens is that the spots do not tell the whole story about MA. Like most advertisements, they highlight the good news and leave out the bad. Health care journalists have an essential role to play during enrollment season in reporting on how each eligible individual can choose the most appropriate Medicare coverage, despite the advice from aging celebrities on TV. Continue reading
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2 on Thursday, a bill that would prevent an automatic cut of 21 percent in Medicare payments to physicians and would require seniors to pay more in the form of higher copayments and premiums. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 also would extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years through 2017.
The vote was hailed as a step forward for physicians because it eliminates the formula Congress has used for many years to increase payments to physicians. That formula, called the sustainable growth rate (SGR), was renegotiated annually and usually at the last minute. It’s been replaced with an annual payment increase of 0.5 percent. The vote was 392 to 37, including 212 Republicans and 180 Democrats voting in favor, according to Govtrack.us.
The strong support from both Republicans and Democrats puts pressure on the U.S. Senate to approve the bill, before Congress adjourns on Friday, Paul Demko wrote in Modern Healthcare. Continue reading