Stars for Hospital Quality, Help for Consumers

  There’s good news for consumers interested in taking more control of their health care. On Wednesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released quality star ratings for U.S. hospitals, an online resource for consumers. With this release, consumers and family caregivers will have an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand tool to help them evaluate the quality of hospitals. The star rating provides a summary of a hospital’s performance on over 60 quality measures reported on CMS’ Hospital Compare website, in …

Diabetes Prevention Program Shows Investing in Prevention Pays

Diabetes among older adults is associated with significant health and cost burdens. Nearly a quarter of individuals age 65 and older have been diagnosed with diabetes, and one of every three Medicare dollars is spent on beneficiaries living with the condition. An estimated one-half of the Medicare population is prediabetic, meaning their blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis. To address this growing public health concern, in 2011 the Centers for Medicare & …

Building Capacity to Provide Behavioral Health Services to Dual Eligibles

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched the Financial Alignment Initiative (the Initiative) to improve the quality of care received by low-income adults who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid — known as dual eligibles. Many of these individuals have unmet behavioral health needs, ranging from mild depression to serious mental illness, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A recent update on the Initiative presented to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission highlighted four challenges to providing behavioral health services …

Shingles Vaccine May Be out of Reach for Some Medicare Beneficiaries

Introduction to Shingles Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful skin rash. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chicken pox. Once people recover from chicken pox, the virus remains in their body in an inactive state. In some people, it stays dormant; in others, the virus reactivates and causes shingles. The condition is most common in older adults and people with weakened immune systems. The most common complication of shingles is …

States Simplify Medicaid Sign-Ups

Getting on Medicaid has never been so easy. In the past two years, 31 states and the District of Columbia have expanded eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but even more have simplified sign-ups and renewals, according to a 50-state survey released Jan. 21. For example, 49 states this year take applications for Medicaid by telephone, up from 15 in 2013, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) All but one state …

Among Older African Americans, Depression Continues to Be Under-Detected and Undertreated

The good news is that appropriate treatment can help most older adults with depression. What’s more, Medicare has recently improved its coverage for people with mental disorders. It now covers a free annual depression screening, and beneficiaries no longer have to pay more for outpatient treatment of mental illnesses than they do for physical illnesses. In addition, Medicare’s prescription drug benefit covers essentially all antidepressants used to treat people with depression. Older African Americans’ Depression Is More Likely to Go …