Bernie Sanders relaunches ‘Medicare for All’ amid 2020 glare

Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to unveil a new version of his "Medicare for All" plan, shaking up the 2020 presidential campaign by reopening the debate over his call to eliminate private health insurance
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How ‘Medicare for All’ Could Mean Change for Everyone

Through Medicare, the government health-insurance program created in 1965 to help older Americans afford their medical bills, the U.S. helps one in five of its citizens pay for doctor visits, blood tests, prescription drugs, stays in hospitals or nursing facilities, and hospice care. Why not offer those benefits to everybody? “Medicare for All” has emerged as a rallying cry among Democrats in the early stages of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, though it means different things to different people.

1. Who can get Medicare now?

About 85 percent of Medicare’s 59.7 million members are eligible because of their age — 65 or older. The rest are eligible because they have permanent disabilities. Beneficiaries are responsible for paying premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs, and most purchase some type of additional coverage to help with services that aren’t covered, such as long-term care, dental and vision treatment, and hearing aids.

2. What would Medicare for All mean?

That depends on who’s talking. Generally speaking, it suggests an end to the dominance of private health insurance in the U.S., in favor of either a government-run “single-payer” system, such as Canada’s, or a government-provided alternative to private insurance plans that Americans could buy into, an idea known as the “public option.” Less-drastic offshoots of the idea envision lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 50 — Medicare for more, rather than Medicare for All.

3. Which politicians support which proposals?

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is again seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, continues to advocate for a fully government-run and government-financed system that would abolish most private insurance plans. Self-described progressive Democrats in the House of Representatives also favor a government-run single-payer system. That group includes Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who has offered specific legislation, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Other Democrats vying against Sanders for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination are split (or fuzzy) over whether they would do away with most private insurance or, rather, seek more modest steps toward government-provided health care. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s focus on more modest steps toward insuring more Americans is an attempt to keep the party from fracturing over the issue.

4. Would Medicare for All change everybody’s health care?

It might, depending on the plan. The most expansive visions of Medicare for All, like those of Sanders and Jayapal, would establish universal benefits through a government-run program and outlaw most forms of private insurance, including employer-provided coverage. That might mean little if any out-of-pocket cost to patients, but also less choice for people who want to purchase specific types of benefits and for employers who use them to attract workers. Under a public-option plan, people satisfied with their insurance and medical care would have more flexibility to keep it.

5. How much would it cost?

The Congressional Budget Office, the provider of official cost estimates, hasn’t weighed in on any of the proposed plans. A study from the libertarian Mercatus Center said Sanders’ 2017 single-payer bill would raise federal spending by $ 32.6 trillion over 10 years; an earlier report by the nonpartisan Urban Institute reached a similar figure. (To pay for that, sponsors have floated ideas like raising taxes on the wealthy.) But the current system has costs as well. The U.S. spent $ 3.5 trillion on health care in 2017, or roughly $ 11,000 for each American, and is projected to spend about $ 47 trillion on health care between 2018 and 2027 (adding up what the government, employers and households pay). Today about 18 percent of gross domestic product goes to medical spending, a far greater share than most peer countries.

6. Would Medicare for All cut health-care costs?

That’s a matter of debate. Proponents say it would allow the government to limit costs by setting prices and eliminate the administrative burden of private health insurance. Critics argue that would remove the incentives private purchasers of health care have to steer their dollars toward more efficient, innovative suppliers.

7. Do Americans want Medicare for All?

That changes with how the question is phrased. In a January poll by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 74 percent of those surveyed supported “creating a national government-administered health plan similar to Medicare open to anyone” if that meant people could choose to keep the coverage they already have. Support dropped to 56 percent if it meant “all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan” and to 37 percent if it would “eliminate private health-insurance companies.”

Fortune

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http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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Humana turns to game theory for new Medicare pricing as insurers juggle Trump rebate uncertainty

The game theory comes in with the timing of when new rules might be adopted. Executives note the deadline for filing 2020 plans is in early June.
Health and Science

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Trump administration proposes rules for Medicare plans as it seeks to lower drug prices

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that the goal would be to create a system that prioritizes savings for patients.
Health and Science

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Apple is in talks with private Medicare plans about bringing its watch to at-risk seniors

Insurers are finding reasons to provide Apple Watches to members.
Health and Science

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Trump outlines new plan to lower Medicare drug prices, end ‘rigged’ system

Under the administration's proposal, the Department of Health and Human Services would permit Medicare to create a new payment model that would bring drug prices in line with what other nations pay.
Health and Science

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‘Medicare for all’ suddenly popular on campaign trail even in red states: ANALYSIS

“Medicare for all” and single-payer health care are suddenly popular. The phrase appear in political ads and receive cheers at campaign rallies, even in deep-red states.
ABC News: Health

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http://www.acrx.org -As millions of Americans strive to deal with the economic downturn,loss of jobs,foreclosures,high cost of gas,and the rising cost of prescription drug cost. Charles Myrick ,the President of American Consultants Rx, announced the re-release of the American Consultants Rx community service project which consist of millions of free discount prescription cards being donated to thousands of not for profits,hospitals,schools,churches,etc. in an effort to assist the uninsured,under insured,and seniors deal with the high cost of prescription drugs.-American Consultants Rx -Pharmacy Discount Network News

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GUIDE TO MEDICARE: Time to shop around to make the right moves

Fifty-three million people can’t be wrong. Or can they?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that analyzes health policy, only 10% of the 59 million Medicare beneficiaries make a change during the Open Enrollment period. Not reviewing your Medicare options can have…

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Kaiser Permanente Medicare Plan Earns Highest Rating in the State

HONOLULU — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency, has rated Kaiser Permanente Hawaii’s 2019 Medicare plan the highest rating of 5 out of 5 stars in its annual Star Ratings program. Kaiser Permanente is the only Medicare plan in Hawaii and one of just 14 in the nation to receive 5 stars this year.

The Medicare star quality rating for 2019 is based on plans’ performance in up to 45 care and service quality measures across 9 categories. CMS assigns a rating to individual Medicare health plans ranging from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) stars based on measures related to staying healthy, managing chronic conditions, member experience, customer service and pharmacy services. Five-star plans can participate in a Special Enrollment Period and continue to enroll individual (direct pay) Medicare members from January 1 to September 31, in addition to the regular annual enrollment period of October 15 to December 7.

“From the doctor’s office to the pharmacy to member services, our entire staff is dedicated to providing high-quality, integrated care and coverage to help our kupuna members stay healthy as they age,” said Linda Puu, vice president of Quality, Safety and Care Experience. “We’re proud to be recognized as the leading Medicare plan in Hawaii by CMS, which oversees Medicare administration and has the highest standards for measuring quality of care and health plan performance.”

The CMS rating follows a recent accolade given by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a leading health care quality assurance organization. Earlier this year, the NCQA Medicare Health Insurance Plan Ratings awarded Kaiser Permanente Hawaii’s Medicare plan with a 5 out of 5 score, making it the only 2019 plan in Hawaii and one of just eight plans nationwide to receive the highest rating.

Data for the Medicare star quality rating is drawn from the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, Health Outcomes Survey and CMS administrative data from audits, complaints and “secret shopping.” For more information about the CMS star ratings, visit medicare.gov. To learn more about the star ratings and see Kaiser Permanente’s ratings by region, visit kp.org/medicarestars.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 12.2 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.

The post Kaiser Permanente Medicare Plan Earns Highest Rating in the State appeared first on Kaiser Permanente.

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Medicare Advantage Riding High As New Insurers Flock To Sell To Seniors

Health care experts widely expected the Affordable Care Act to hobble Medicare Advantage, the government-funded private health plans that millions of seniors have chosen as an alternative to original Medicare.

To pay for expanding coverage to the uninsured, the 2010 law cut billions of dollars in federal payments to the plans. Government budget analysts predicted that would lead to a sharp drop in enrollment as insurers reduced benefits, exited states or left the business altogether.

But the dire projections proved wrong.

Since 2010, enrollment in Medicare Advantage has doubled to more than 20 million enrollees, growing from a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries to more than a third.

“The Affordable Care Act did not kill Medicare Advantage, and the program looks poised to continue to grow quite rapidly,” said Bill Frack, managing director with L.E.K. Consulting, which advises health companies.

And as beneficiaries get set to shop for plans during open enrollment — which runs from Monday through Dec. 7 — they will find a greater choice of insurers.

Fourteen new companies have begun selling Medicare Advantage plans for 2019, several more than a typical year, according to a report out Monday from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent part of the foundation.)

Overall, Medicare beneficiaries can choose from about 3,700 plans for 2019, or 600 more than this year, according to the federal government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

CMS expects Medicare Advantage enrollment to jump to nearly 23 million people in 2019, a 12 percent increase. Enrollees shopping for new plans this fall will likely find lower or no premiums and improved benefits, CMS officials say.

With about 10,000 baby boomers aging into Medicare range each day, the general view of the insurance industry, said Robert Berenson, a Medicare expert with the nonpartisan Urban Institute, “is that their future is Medicare and it’s crazy not to pursue Medicare enrollees more actively.”

Bright Health, Clover Health and Devoted Health, all for-profit companies, began offering Medicare Advantage plans for 2018 or will do so for 2019.

Mutual of Omaha, a company owned by its policyholders, is also moving into Medicare Advantage for the first time in two decades, providing plans in San Antonio and Cincinnati.

Some nonprofit hospitals are offering Medicare plans for the first time too, such as the BayCare Health system in the Tampa, Fla., area.

While Medicare beneficiaries in most counties have a choice of several plans, enrollment for years had been consolidated into several for-profit companies, primarily UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Aetna, which have accumulated just under half the national enrollment.

These insurance giants are also expanding into new markets for next year. Humana in 2019 will offer its Medicare HMO in 97 new counties in 14 states. UnitedHealthcare is moving into 130 new counties in 13 states, including for the first time Minnesota, its headquarters for the past four decades.

Extra Benefits

Seniors have long been attracted to Advantage plans because they often include benefits not available with government-run Medicare, such as vision and dental coverage. Many private plans save seniors money because their premiums, deductibles and other patient cost sharing are lower than what beneficiaries pay with original Medicare. But there is a trade-off: The private plans usually require seniors to use a restricted network of doctors and hospitals.

The federal government pays the plans to provide coverage for beneficiaries. When drafting the ACA, Democratic lawmakers targeted the Medicare Advantage plans because studies had shown that enrollees in the private plans cost the government 14 percent more than people in the original program.

Medicare plans weathered the billions in funding cuts in part by qualifying for new federal bonus payments available to those that score a “4” or better on a five-notch scale of quality and customer satisfaction.

Health plans also gained extra revenue by identifying illnesses and health risks of members that would entitle the companies to federal “risk-adjustment” payments. That has provided hundreds of billions in extra dollars to Medicare plans, though congressional analysts and federal investigators have raised concerns about insurers exaggerating how sick their members are.

A study last year found that those risk adjustments could add more than $ 200 billion to the cost of Medicare Advantage plans in the next decade, despite no change in enrollees’ health.

For-profit Medicare Advantage insurers made a 5 percent profit margin in 2016 — twice the average of Medicare plans overall, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which reports to Congress. That’s slightly better than the health insurance industry’s overall 4 percent margin reported by Standard & Poor’s.

Those profit margins could expand. The Trump administration boosted payments to Medicare Advantage plans by 3.4 percent for 2019, 0.45 percentage points higher than the 2018 increase.

Betsy Seals, chief consulting officer for Gorman Health Group, a Washington company that advises Medicare Advantage plans, said many health plans hesitated to enter that market or expand after President Donald Trump was elected because they weren’t sure the new administration would support the program. But such concerns were erased with the announcement on 2019 reimbursement rates.

“The administration’s support of the Medicare Advantage program is clear,” Seals said. “We have seen the downstream impact of this support with new entrants to the market — a trend we expect to see continue.”

Getting Consumers To Switch

Since the 1960s, Mutual of Omaha has sold Medicare Supplement policies — coverage to help beneficiaries in government-run Medicare pay the portion of costs that program doesn’t pick up. But the company only briefly entered the Medicare Advantage business once — in its home state of Nebraska in the 1990s.

“In the past 10 or 20 years it never seemed quite the right time,” said Amber Rinehart, a senior vice president for the insurer. “The main hindrance was around the political environment and funding for Medicare Advantage.”

Yet after watching Medicare Advantage enrollment soar and government funding increase, the insurer has decided now is the time to act. “We have seen a lot more stability of funding and the political tailwinds are there,” she said.

One challenge for the new insurers will be attracting members from existing companies since beneficiaries tend to stick with the same insurer for many years.

Vivek Garipalli, CEO of Clover Health, said his San Francisco-based company hopes to gain members by offering low-cost plans with a large choice of hospitals and doctors and allowing members to see specialists in its network without prior approval from their primary care doctor. The company is also focused on appealing to blacks and Hispanics who have been less likely to join Medicare Advantage.

“We see a lot of opportunity in markets where there are underserved populations,” Garipalli said.

Clover has received funding from Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google. Clover sold Medicare plans in New Jersey last year and is expanding for 2019 into El Paso, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; and Savannah, Ga.

Newton, Mass.-based Devoted Health is moving into Medicare Advantage with plans in South Florida and Central Florida. Minneapolis-based BrightHealth is expanding into several new markets including Phoenix, Nashville, Cincinnati and New York City.

BayCare, based in Clearwater, Fla., is offering a Medicare plan for the first time in 2019.

“We think there is enough market share to be had and we are not afraid to compete,” said Jim Beermann, vice president of insurance strategy for BayCare.

Hospitals are attracted to the Medicare business because it gives them access to more of premium dollars directed to health costs, said Frack of L.E.K. Consulting. “You control more of your destiny,” he added.

Kaiser Health News

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Viewpoints: Trump Says ‘Medicare For All’ Plan Would Eventually Lead To Massive Rationing Of Health Care

President Donald Trump writes about his views on the Democrats’ “Medicare For All” plan, which has become a litmus test among progressive candidates. Editorial pages look at other health issues, as well.
Kaiser Health News

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GUIDE TO MEDICARE: Your questions answered

Q. When can I enroll in Medicare?

A. Most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. At that time, they should contact the Social Security Administration for information on how to enroll in Medicare Part A, which is free for people who have paid federal taxes for at least 10 years….

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GUIDE TO MEDICARE: New options with Medicare Advantage Plans

As Medicare open enrollment arrives, millions of seniors have the opportunity to revisit their decision to use Medicare Advantage plans. More than 19 million Medicare beneficiaries, or 33%, participated in Medicare Advantage plans last year.

Medicare open enrollment, which is from Oct. 15 through…

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