What Put the Brakes on Medicare Spending?

The Holy Grail in battles over the federal budget has been how to slow down the runaway train of health care spending. So it surely comes as good news that spending on traditional Medicare has slowed substantially, as a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study shows, and not just because of the broader economic slowdown. For 25 years, spending on traditional Medicare rose, on average, 8 percent a year. Then, from 2007 to 2012, the increase slowed to an average annual …

More Doctors Accepting New Medicare Patients

It’s getting easier – not more difficult – to find doctors who take Medicare, according to a new study by the Department of Health and Human Services. Doctors have long complained about Medicare’s payment caps and the instability of a reimbursement system that forces cuts each year unless Congress intervenes to prevent them. Nonetheless, the HHS study says that the number of physicians accepting new Medicare patients is actually higher than the number taking new private insurance patients, according to …

If You Have Medicare, No Need to Go to Insurance Marketplaces

By Susan Jaffe, Kaiser Health News. This story produced in collaboration with USA Today While the Obama administration is stepping up efforts encouraging uninsured Americans to enroll in health coverage from the new online insurance marketplaces, officials are planning a campaign to convince millions of seniors to please stay away – don’t call and don’t sign up. “We want to reassure Medicare beneficiaries that they are already covered, their benefits are not changing and the marketplace doesn’t require them to do …

Find Out Whether Your Hospital Has Too Many Readmissions

Is your hospital’s revolving door turning too quickly? Each year, more than a million Americans wind up back in the hospital within 30 days after leaving for reasons that could have been prevented. That includes one in five Medicare hospital patients. Medicare has begun penalizing hospitals with high readmission rates for patients being treated for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia – new categories will be added in the future – and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) …

How a Secretive Panel of Doctors Helps Set Health Care Costs

A Washington Post story by investigative reporters Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating has drawn plenty of attention to a little-known committee of doctors that establishes values for each medical procedure, which in turn affects how much Medicare and private insurers pay for them. The American Medical Association committee meets once a year behind closed doors to determine the time and intensity of most of the procedures and services a doctor performs – like colonoscopies (75 minutes of a doctor’s time, …

Medicare Drug Premiums Will Rise Just $1 a Month

The average monthly premium for a basic prescription drug plan under Medicare Part D will be just $1 higher next year, the government projects. What’s more, Medicare beneficiaries get some of the credit for keeping the average low by shopping around, the Associated Press reports. For this year, seven of the top 10 Medicare drug plans raised premiums by 10 percent or more. But the average stayed low because many seniors chose plans with lower premiums. “Consumer advocates say beneficiaries should …