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 …

Time to Let the Sunshine In

By AARP Executive Vice President Debra Whitman, Ph.D. and AARP Director of Health Services Research Leigh Purvis Starting today, AARP members and consumers of all ages will be able to get a better idea of what may be driving their health care provider’s decisions thanks to the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, or Sunshine Act. The Sunshine Act requires drug and medical device manufacturers to publicly report virtually all payments, gifts, and other services provided to health care providers and teaching …

Momentum Builds to Close Health Coverage Gap

When you’re sick, what do you do? A. Nothing, B. Call a doctor, or C. Go to the E.R.? Every day, millions of hard-working Americans who have lost their jobs or are struggling in jobs without health coverage choose A. Nothing. That is, until their condition gets so bad they are forced to choose C. and go to the ER. Without affordable health coverage, paying for a doctor’s appointment is just too expensive, and the necessities of daily living like …