Medicare Healthy … for Now

Turning 50 this month, Medicare has received a report card predicting reasonable long-term health for the program, but warning of future challenges posed by a surge of millions of baby boomers into the system in coming years. It also hinted at a possible return next year to a temporary shift in Medicare premiums, with some beneficiaries paying an additional amount for doctors’ services. Medicare’s hospital trust fund, which collects workers’ contributions from payroll taxes to fund Part A coverage, will …

Take Advantage of Medicare’s Free Preventive Services

Being able to treat a medical problem is good, but dodging the problem altogether is even better. That seems obvious, yet Medicare has only recently expanded coverage for services that help prevent or stave off some of the diseases that make people very ill and — not coincidentally — cost Medicare mountains of money. Many of these preventive tests, screenings and counseling sessions are now available for free, with no copays or deductibles, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. More …

Permanent Fix for Medicare Payments to Doctors Moves to Obama

This post was updated April 21, 2015. President Barack Obama signed into law on April 21 a permanent solution to a problem that has plagued the Medicare system for years. Doctors never knew whether the payments they received for treating Medicare beneficiaries would suddenly drop, making it difficult for them to make long-term business plans and causing some to stop taking Medicare patients altogether. Obama once compared the flawed payment formula to a “guillotine” hanging permanently over doctors’ heads. Approving …

Medicare in Good Health – for Now

Medicare is in much better health and has a somewhat longer life expectancy than previously expected, according to the 2014 Medicare Trustee’s report released today. Spending on Medicare’s Part B program, which covers mainly doctors’ services and outpatient care, has significantly slowed, the report says. That’s good news for the 59 million people on Medicare, because it means that the standard Part B premiums, which are always pegged to the previous year’s costs, are expected to stay at the same …

Medicare Overpays $6.7 Billion for Patient Evaluation Services

Medicare spent $6.7 billion too much in 2010 by “inappropriately” paying claims from physicians who had submitted the wrong billing codes or no documentation at all for certain services, according to a new report from the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Although that amount was a small fraction of Medicare’s total spending of more than $525 billion in 2010, it still added up to 21 percent of what Medicare paid for all “evaluation …

Low-Value Health Services Cost Medicare Billions

Medical services that provide little or no health benefit to older Americans cost Medicare at least $1.9 billion a year, according to a landmark new study. Researchers at Harvard University’s department of health care policy found that at least 25 percent of the more than 1.3 million Medicare beneficiaries had one or more of 26 tests and procedures that have been shown to provide scant medical value. The study is thought to be the first to measure wasteful spending by …