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 …

Safer Medicare Cards in Future Prompt Vulnerability Now

Medicare open enrollment runs each year from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, providing a special window of opportunity for various scams. But none is as widespread and successful as this one: Posing as employees from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or other government agencies, fraudsters claim in phone calls or unexpected home visits that new cards are being issued and that, for you to continue to receive your benefits, the agency must “verify” or “update” identifying information. …

Bitten by a Crocodile? There’s a Code for That

A seismic change in Medicare and the rest of the U.S. health care industry began Oct. 1, when a new system of diagnostic codes — which all health providers must use to get paid — finally went into effect after a decade of controversy. The change is making the industry hold its breath, nervous of how it will play out. Will honest mistakes in coding cause claims to be delayed or, worse, go unpaid? Will some physicians, overwhelmed by the …

Advance Care Planning Gets a Boost

In response to an earlier request from AARP and other groups, we are pleased that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has recommended in its recent proposed update to the Medicare physician fee schedule that Medicare be able to pay for advance care planning (ACP) services from physicians and other providers. The proposal will help facilitate voluntary conversations among individuals, their families and health care providers to help ensure individuals’ choices and wishes about their care are known, …

Government Nursing Home Ratings Getting Tougher

Starting immediately, the federal government is making it harder for nursing homes to get top grades on a public report card, in part by increasing scrutiny of their use of antipsychotic drugs and raising the bar on an array of quality measures. Those grades — in the form of one- to five-star ratings — are part of Nursing Home Compare, a government website to help consumers evaluate nursing homes. While the star ratings, which debuted in December 2008, are lauded …