MEDICARE DRUG PLANS AND MORE FOR 2023: GOOD NEWS AND NOT AS GOOD NEWS

Featured

By D. Kenton Henry editor, agent, broker 12 October 2022

In a year in which the annual inflation rate is over 9%, and the core inflation rate over 6%, there is some good news relative to Medicare Part D 2023 Drugs and Plan costs. And it comes just in time as the approximately 64 million Americans on Medicare will be electing their drug coverage during the “Annual Election Period” from October 15th through December 7th, for coverage to begin January 1.

While Medicare Part A (hospital and skilled nursing facility) coverage has been paid for during the working careers of most Americans or their spouses, Part B (out-patient coverage) has not. Medicare accesses an income-adjusted monthly premium based on a “two-year look-back at one’s income tax return. (for details refer to Chart 1, and Feature Article 1, below)

The base premium for individuals earning $97,000 or less, and couples filing jointly earning $194,00 or less, will be down $5.20 per month from $170.10 to $164.90. The Medicare Part B out-patient deductible will be down $7.00 from $233.00 to $226.00 in 2023. Although these decreases are nominal, to say the least, they are a move in the right direction.

The “not as good news” is that Part A Inpatient hospital costs to the beneficiary will be increasing. The inpatient hospital deductible is going to $1,600 for each admission – due to a different medical condition – or the same medical condition separated by 60 days or more. And the daily coinsurance for days 61-90 is going to $400 and for lifetime reserve days to $800. It is easy to see that most can ill afford to be liable for the cost of an extended hospital stay without supplemental coverage, such as Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage, to pay these expenses. (for details, refer to Chart 2 below)

Relative to Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans, the headline subject of this article, the best news is probably not that premiums are actually decreasing for many of the approximately 30 plan options available. Surveys show that Americans are more concerned about the price of their drugs than their plan premiums. So, more good news is that the cost of insulin – which has historically created something of a hardship for dependent diabetic patients – will be limited to a $35.00 monthly cap on insulin copays for Part D enrollees. In addition, all vaccines recommended for adults by the CDC will be available at no cost.

If not reversed, even greater cost savings are scheduled for 2024 and beyond. Here are some of the highlights:

2024

i) Part D enrollees entering the “catastrophic” phase of coverage will not owe any additional copays for the year. In other words, they will have 100% coverage.

ii) Part D premiums will be capped at a maximum price increase of 6% annually through 2029. Additionally, the government will expand eligibility for financial assistance.

2025

i) Out-of-pocket Medicare drug costs will be capped at $2,000 each year.

ii) Additionally, Part D enrollees will be able to spread out copay costs over the entire year, preventing hardship created by extremely high one-time bills.

2026

This will be the first year Medicare will be permitted to negotiate the cost of drugs. This will be limited to 10 drugs in 2026, increasing to 60 drugs by 2029.

These proposed changes all sound encouraging. Let us hope they survive to fruition. In the meantime, it is my job to assist my clients, and prospective clients, in identifying their lowest “total” cost Part D Drug plan for each calendar year. While people get fixated with monthly premium, one’s lowest total cost is the sum of their plan’s premium + any deductible due before their drugs become available for copays or coinsurance + their copays or coinsurance. We are seeking the lowest sum. It can be a tedious and confusing task for many and I assume that task for any client or prospective client requesting assistance.

For 2023 plan marketing, Medicare mandates I post the following disclaimer:

While I offer most, “I do not offer every plan available in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all your options.”

That being dispensed with, permit me to add – When someone requests I research the market for their lowest “total” cost drug or Medicare Advantage Plan, I not only employ proprietary software, but I utilize Medicare’s own data to make my recommendation. So rest assured, I have thoroughly reviewed all their options in the market before making my recommendation.

I do not charge a fee for my services. If you do not take advantage of my recommendation, you are out of nothing but the time we have spent together in arriving at it. However, if I introduce you to an insurance product, and you elect to apply for it, I only hope you will go through me to do so. You are not obligated to. Then, and only then, will I be compensated directly by the insurance company whose product you elect. The key to you is – you will pay no more premium for that product than if you were to walk in the front door of that company and purchase it directly from them. All companies in the Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage market pay me the same so my objectivity is assured. Therefore, I like to think, you gain all the expertise my 36 years in the industry has to offer you at no additional charge. This is as opposed to a different person each time at the end of a toll-free number. I encourage you to take advantage of my offer and I look forward to establishing a working relationship with you.

D. Kenton Henry

 All Plan Med Quote                                  

Https://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com        Https://Allplanhealthinsurance.com               Https://HealthandMedicareInsurance.com                                                                Office: 281-367-6565                                                                                                     Text my cell 24/7 @ 713-907-7984

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CHART 1

Full Part B Coverage
Beneficiaries who file individual tax returns with modified adjusted gross income:Beneficiaries who file joint tax returns with modified adjusted gross income:Income-Related Monthly Adjustment AmountTotal Monthly  Premium Amount
Less than or equal to $97,000Less than or equal to $194,000$0.00$164.90
Greater than $97,000 and less than or equal to $123,000Greater than $194,000 and less than or equal to $246,000$65.90$230.80
Greater than $123,000 and less than or equal to $153,000Greater than $246,000 and less than or equal to $306,000$164.80$329.70
Greater than $153,000 and less than or equal to $183,000Greater than $306,000 and less than or equal to $366,000$263.70$428.60
Greater than $183,000 and less than $500,000Greater than $366,000 and less than $750,000$362.60$527.50
Greater than or equal to $500,000Greater than or equal to $750,000$395.60$560.50

CHART 2

Part A Deductible and Coinsurance Amounts for Calendar Years 2022 and 2023
by Type of Cost Sharing
 20222023
Inpatient hospital deductible$1,556$1,600
Daily coinsurance for 61st-90th Day$389$400
Daily coinsurance for lifetime reserve days$778$800

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FEATURE ARTICLE 1

CMS: Medicare Part B Premiums, Deductibles Will Decrease in 2023

Monthly Medicare Part B premiums will fall to $164.90 in 2023, marking a $5.20 decrease from this year, while Part A premiums are set to increase by $4 to $7.

Source: CMS Logo

 By Victoria Bailey

September 27, 2022 – Medicare Part B premiums and deductibles will decrease in 2023, while Part A costs will rise, according to a fact sheet released by CMS.

Medicare Part B offers coverage for physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home healthcare services, durable medical equipment (DME), and other medical services not covered by Medicare Part A.

The standard monthly premium for Part B enrollees will be $164.90 compared to $170.10 in 2022. The annual deductible will be $226, decreasing $7 from $233 in 2022.

Dig Deeper

The 2022 premiums included a contingency margin for projected Part B spending on the Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm. However, 2022 saw lower-than-expected spending on Aduhelm and other Part B services, leading to larger reserves in the Part B account of the Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund. This trust fund helps limit Part B premium increases, resulting in lower premiums for 2023.

Individuals with Medicare who take insulin through a pump supplied through the Part B DME benefit will not have to pay a deductible starting on July 1, 2023. In addition, cost-sharing will be capped at $35 for a one-month supply of covered insulin.

In 2023, Medicare beneficiaries who are 36 months post-kidney transplant can choose to continue Part B coverage of immunosuppressive drugs despite no longer being eligible for full Medicare coverage. These individuals will have to pay a monthly premium of $97.10 for immunosuppressive drug coverage.

Medicare beneficiaries with incomes greater than $97,000 will have higher Part B premiums. For example, monthly premiums will range from $230.80 to $560.50 for high-income beneficiaries. Similarly, monthly immunosuppressive drug coverage premiums will vary from $161.80 to $485.50 for high-income beneficiaries.

The While Part B costs will decrease in 2023, Part A costs are set to increase.

Medicare Part A offers coverage for inpatient hospital services, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, inpatient rehab, and home healthcare services.

The Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductible for beneficiaries admitted to the hospital will be $1,600 in 2023, rising from $1,556 in 2022. This deductible covers beneficiaries’ share of costs for the first 60 days of inpatient hospital care.

For days 61 through 90 of hospitalization, beneficiaries will have to pay a coinsurance amount of $400 per day, up from $389 in 2022. Past 90 days, the coinsurance will rise to $800 per day. The daily coinsurance for individuals in skilled nursing facilities will be $200 for days 21 through 100 of extended care services, up from $194.50 in 2022.

The majority of Medicare beneficiaries do not have to pay a Part A premium because they have worked at least 40 quarters in their life, the fact sheet noted. However, for those who have not, 2023 premiums are increasing.

Individuals who have at least 30 quarters of coverage or were married to someone with at least 30 quarters of coverage will have a Part A monthly premium of $278 in 2023, compared to $274 in 2022.

Individuals with less than 30 quarters and those with disabilities will have to pay the full 2023 premium of $506 per month, which is $7 higher than in 2022.

The fact sheet also shared 2023 information on Medicare Part D costs. Premiums for Medicare Part D, which offers drug coverage, vary from plan to plan. Around two-thirds of beneficiaries pay premiums directly to their plan, while the other third have their premiums deducted from their Social Security benefit checks.

Beneficiaries with incomes above $97,000 must also pay an income-related monthly adjustment amount in addition to their Part D premium. The amounts will range from $12.20 to $76.40 for high-income beneficiaries.

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FEATURE ARTICLE 2

6 Policies To Reduce Prescription Drug Prices, Boost Competition

As prescription drug spending climbs, ACHP is calling on policymakers to reduce high prescription drug prices and enhance market competition.

 By Victoria Bailey

September 02, 2021 – The Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) is urging the federal government to take action and lower prescription drug prices with a set of recommended actions.

The costs of prescription drugs continue to rise each year, but policymakers have done little to address it. ACHP’s list of suggestions ranges from increasing drug pricing transparency to expanding the use of biosimilars.

Catastrophic Medicare Part D prescription drug spending has been on the rise for over a decade. Seniors do not have an out-of-pocket cap for Medicare Part D, which can leave them with high costs in the catastrophic phase.

Dig Deeper

ACHP’s first recommendation is to redesign the Medicare Part D benefit including creating an out-of-pocket healthcare spending cap for seniors and to ensure that consumers will not owe anything during the catastrophic phase. Drug companies should also have to assume financial responsibility for each Part D phase and take some of the pressure off of Medicare.

Medicare should also receive resources to allow the program to negotiate lower drug prices for their beneficiaries, ACHP suggested.

ACHP’s next recommendation was for the federal government to allow the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate prices for expensive prescription drugs that have no generic or biosimilar competition. These drugs were responsible for 60 percent of Part D spending in 2019, the fact sheet noted.

Currently, HHS has no power over competitive drug pricing.

Policymakers should also extend price negotiation to the commercial market to keep drug companies from shifting costs to non-Medicare consumers.

High-cost drugs that face no competition should also have an International Pricing Index applied that will limit the price to no more than 120 percent of its average international market price. The previous administration supported a similar approach through its Most Favored Nation model, but the Biden administration has proposed to rescind that model.

ACHP also urged the federal government to increase the use of biosimilars by informing clinicians and patients of the products and by persuading the Federal Trade Commission to increase biosimilar presence on the drug market. There are 29 FDA-approved biosimilars that are more affordable than other prescription drugs, but less than 12 are available on the market.

Increasing reimbursement rates for biosimilars could also improve utilization, the fact sheet stated.

ACHP’s suggestions also targeted drug companies’ unjustifiable raising of drug prices. At the beginning of 2021, 735 drugs prices increased up to 10 percent without reason.

Prescription drug prices often increase faster than the inflation rate, therefore ACHP recommended that drug manufacturers should have to provide rebates for drug price increase above the inflation rate.

Drug companies should also have to follow a price transparency rule that would require manufacturers to report and justify price increases, ACHP stated.

One example is the FAIR Drug Pricing Act, introduced in the Senate in 2019 and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. This Act would require drug manufacturers to notify HHS and submit a transparency and justification report 30 days before increasing the price of certain drugs by more than 10 percent.

Lastly, the ACHP recommended that the federal government encourage the use of transparent fee-based pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Traditional PBMs are typically not transparent about rebates, which can encourage high-cost drug use, whereas transparent fee-based PBMs pass rebates and discounts onto payers and earn revenue through a clear administrative fee.

Payer organizations have turned to the federal government to get prescription drug prices under control, as pharmaceutical companies are not budging.

In January 2021, AHIP called on the Biden Administration to focus on solutions that would protect Americans from higher drug prices.

The issue is pressing, not only for the seniors on whom some of ACHP’s recommendations focused but for all Americans. AHIP reported that the highest portion of commercial health insurance premiums goes toward prescription drug costs, making prescription drug pricing a widespread concern.

WHAT MAY BE THE MOST CONVENIENT MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLAN TO DATE!

By D. Kenton Henry editor, agent

26 April 2022

There is good news in the SE Texas Medicare Advantage Market! It announces a new Medicare insurance plan which provides what is likely the greatest access to medical providers to date. It allows a member may go to any provider that sees Medicare patients. This equates access to that of the Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans I typically encourage my clients to enroll in. And the out-of-pocket expenses are $0! There is not even the Part B annual out-patient deductible of $233 which applies to the most popular Medigap Plan G!

Additionally, it provides the convenience of Medicare Advantage Part D Drug (MAPD) plans because it includes Part D Prescription Drug coverage. This means one need not pay an additional premium for a standalone drug plan to accompany their medical coverage because your medical and drug coverage is included under the cover of one policy.

*(The details of this plan are described by the insurance company in the Feature Article below.)

FOR WHOM IS THIS PLAN BEST SUITED?

In my opinion, it is best suited for the older Medicare recipient for whom their Medigap and Part D drug plan premium now exceeds $215.40 – the monthly premium for this Medicare Advantage Plan. Someone who has just turned age 65 will find their Medigap premium combined with a low-cost Part D drug plan competitive for quite some time. However, as they get older, the total cost can greatly exceed the premium for this Advantage plan. Additionally, unless they have Medigap Plan F, they remain responsible for the annual Part B deductible noted above.

As we age, many of us acquire moderate to significant pre-existing medical conditions. In Texas, and most states, when their Medigap premium becomes burdensome, Texans cannot enroll in a new, and lower cost, Medigap plan and be guaranteed approval. They must go through underwriting and risk being declined due to their health history. With Medicare Advantage plans this cannot happen as approval is guaranteed during the eligible enrollment periods.

WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF THIS MAPD PLAN?

First, as implied above, if someone is a relatively younger Medicare recipient – with little in the way of brand name drug usage – their combined premium for medical and drug coverage can be considerably lower than the premium for this MAPD plan.

Furthermore, because this plan combines one’s drug plan with their medical plan – one is tied, or captive to, its Part D drug coverage. Coverage which may not be the best drug coverage available to them in the Part D market.

Lastly, Medicare Supplement Plans (Medigap) are created by and standardized by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). They can only be changed by legislation. If legislation would result in a change in their benefits, the insured member would most likely be “grandfathered” or, otherwise, allowed to keep their existing coverage.

With this new “Flex PPO” plan from a major health insurance company, the company could decide to eliminate it in any new calendar year. CMS is not going to mandate an equivalent benefit Advantage Plan. And if none is available – the member is likely to find themselves with an alternative offering less access to providers and with out-of-pocket expenses. Or a member could move to a new area where equivalent coverage is not available.

These are all considerations that must be made before transitioning from Medigap – or another Medicare Advantage plan to this Advantage Plan. Regardless, unless one is just qualifying for Medicare due to age or disability – or losing access to another Medicare Advantage Plan – they will not be allowed to enroll in this new plan until this year’s Annual Election Period October 15th – December 7th.

When that time comes, do not hesitate to contact me for assistance in determining if this option is in your best interest and assistance in enrolling.

D. Kenton Henry

Office: 281-367-6565

TEXT my cell 24/7 @ 713-907-7984

Email: Allplanhealthinsurance.com@gmail.com

Https://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com

Https://Allplanhealthinsurance.com              

Https://HealthandMedicareInsurance.com

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FEATURE ARTICLE 1

**(Due to compliance concerns the company will not be identified at this time. You may contact me for that information as well as all details of the plan. The following is their notice to agents and brokers.)

We want to remind you of our new Medicare Advantage Flex (PPO)SM plan that’s currently available for Medicare age-ins or those eligible for Special Enrollment.  

Features include: $0 Copay/coinsurance, $0 deductible, no out-of-pocket costs – and it’s open access. Members can visit any provider nationwide who accepts Medicare. And it includes prescription drug coverage! 

NOTICE DATED 04.25.2022 FROM:

Important Information Regarding Your Provider Plan Coverage Thank you for enrolling in the Medicare Advantage Flex (PPO)SM plan.

With this plan you can:

• See any provider accepting Medicare whether inside or outside the plan service area.

• See any health care provider, at no additional cost, when traveling nationwide.

• Access care from any provider who accepts Medicare assignment and bills Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

• Find providers by going to http://www.medicare.gov/care-compare. A few things to keep in mind:

• You are not required to obtain authorization for out-of-network services, however, services must meet medical necessity criteria to be covered.

• We also offer a traveler benefit for members leaving the service area for six months or less. If you plan to travel and be away from home for up to six months, contact customer service. SAVE THIS Below is a provider notification card for you to keep and present when seeking care from a provider. This will ensure your medical claims are processed in a proper and timely manner. If you have any questions, please call the number on the back of your member ID card.

• Write your name and member ID number on the front of the provider notification card

• Carefully remove and fold card

• Keep this card with your member ID card

• Take both cards to all health care provider appointments Thank you for being a Medicare Advantage Flex (PPO) plan member. Carefully punch out and fold this card

Dear Provider:

• As a provider, you do not need to be a Medicare Advantage Flex (PPO)SM contracting provider to see and treat this member.

• Members can see any provider who accepts payment from Medicare.

• If you are a provider with any of our MA networks, authorization requirements apply.

• The member’s coverage level is the same whether or not a provider is in the network for the Medicare Advantage Flex (PPO).

• At a minimum, eligible claims will be reimbursed at the Medicare Allowed Amount.

WILL MEDICARE RECIPIENTS FINALLY GET A BREAK? . . . WHY MARKETPLACE INSURED PROBABLY WON’T

By D. Kenton Henry Broker, editor 19 April 2022 

While inflation has costs for necessities, such as gas and food items, skyrocketing to an average of 8.5% in March and much higher for the aforementioned items – Social Security saw fit to only increase the Income Benefit to SSI recipients to 5.9%. Seniors, many of whom are subsisting on fixed incomes, might be able to cut their need for gasoline, but I do not know any who can get by without food, shelter, and electricity. Many are struggling to pay their bills already, and inflation shows little sign of abating.  

This was only until 09/2021, at which time, apparently only apples inflated lower than our current rate of inflation. 

But how about the argument that all this inflation is due to Putin and the war in Ukraine? Russia launched a full-scale assault on Ukraine February 22. One month after the end of the timeline in the chart below. 

When was our current president inaugurated? . . . Answer: January 20, 2021. Take a look at the green line above charting the Consumer Price Index on that date. (I will leave it at that.) 

To add insult to injury, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) increased Part B (outpatient care) premiums by 15% to a base premium -for those with an annual income of less than or equal to $91,000 – to $170.10 per month. Thank you very much!  

However, as described in Feature Article 1 below, due in part to a 50% cut in the cost of a $56,000 Part D covered drug, CMS is considering reducing that Part B Premium. My experience is that the government seldom gives back what they are already receiving . . . but one can only hope. 

For those involved in Marketplace medical coverage – health insurance for individuals and families under the age of 65 – the opposite action on the part of the Department of Health and Human Services may occur. Specifically, the extended enhanced premium tax credits made available by the American Rescue Plan, which enabled an additional 3 million Americans to receive a subsidy lowering their net monthly premium to as low as $0, are set to expire at the end of the year. As described in Feature Article 3 below, it is estimated 4.9 million more people will go uninsured if enhanced benefits are not extended. Never mind it is estimated the extension of such would increase the federal deficit by $305 billion dollars. Of course, the Treasury can simply print more money, further increasing inflation and diminishing the buying power of one’s paycheck or Social Security Income. 

Lastly, medical expenses are no exception to inflation. If you wonder why health insurance premiums or out-of-pocket costs for healthcare are being affected, refer to article 3 below. They start high and increase as one goes from a doctor’s office to an Urgent Care facility to a hospital emergency room. Avoid the latter unless it is a true emergency because it will cost an average of $444 for low to moderate severity treatment. Heaven, forbid you have an overnight stay in a hospital without medical insurance because the average cost is $11,700. As cited in the chart below, it only goes up depending on the type of insurance you have. 

 Should your stay extend to three days, expect to cost to be an average of $30,000. And what if you don’t have health insurance? Here are the average costs of various treatments.

Take a look at what you might pay for each hospital bill without insurance: 

 *(Data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) 

While I cannot guarantee we have seen the worst of inflation – let alone that the government is going to provide us any meaningful relief in the immediate future. But I am here to assist you in acquiring medical coverage, which gives you access to the care and treatment you need to regain or preserve your health without being financially ruined. I will do my best to help you maintain access to as many of your preferred medical doctors and hospitals as the present market allows. I do not charge a fee for my services. There is no additional cost for the insights and value of my 36 years of experience in the health and Medicare-related insurance market. Neither is there any additional cost in acquiring an insurance product through me than if you walked through the door of your preferred insurance company and purchased their product directly from them. There is no obligation to take my learned advice.  

Please give me a call and let’s discuss your situation before the very busy “Open Enrollment” Periods are upon us and everyone is scrambling to mitigate what are almost certain to be the increasing costs of health care

.

Office: 291-367-6565 Text my cell 24/7 @ 713-907-7984 Email: Allplanhealthinsurance.com@gmail.com Https://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com Https://Allplanhealthinsurance.com 

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FEATURED ARTICLE 1 

FIERCE HEALTHCARE 

CMS, FDA present united front against criticism of Aduhelm coverage decision 

AHIP applauded CMS for covering the drug and “related services such as PET scans if required b the trial protocol.” 

Other stakeholders said that now the coverage decision has been finalized it is time for CMS to take action on lowering Part B premiums. 

CMS has yet to announce any final decision on Part B premiums, which is increased by 15% for 2022. A key reason was the $56,000 price tag for Aduhelm. 

However, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced in January that the agency was rethinking the 15% hike after Biogen halved the price of Aduhelm in December.  

Becerra told reporters on Tuesday before the coverage decision that he was waiting to see what “CMS gives back to us in terms of their assessment and then once we get that information we will see where we go.” 

 CMS told Fierce Healthcare on Friday that it has yet to decide on a redetermination for the premium. 

But advocates are hoping the agency moves faster on scaling back the premium hike. 

“Medicare beneficiaries struggling to pay their bills need relief from this year’s premium increase as soon as possible,” said Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. 

Pharma and Alzheimer’s disease patient advocacy groups slammed the decision, however, noting that it will hamper access to the drug. 

“CMS has further complicated matters by taking the unprecedented step of applying different standards for coverage of medicines depending on the FDA approval pathway taken, undermining the scientific assessment by experts at FDA,” said Nicole Longo, spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, in a statement.

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FEATURED ARTICLE 2 

BENEFITSPRO.COM 

End to ACA tax credits could leave 3 million uninsured 

But extending the enhanced credits would increase the federal deficit by $305 billion over 10 years. 

By Alan Goforth | April 08, 2022 at 09:32 AM 

    

Congress would need to act by midsummer to give marketplaces, insurers and outreach programs time to prepare for the 2023 open enrollment period. 

More than three million people could lose insurance coverage if enhanced premium tax credits included in the American Rescue Plan expire at the end of this year, according to a new report from the Urban Institute. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 increased credits for Marketplace insurance coverage and extended eligibility to more individuals. 

“If Congress does not extend these benefits, marketplace enrollment will most likely fall and the number of people uninsured will increase,” said Jessica Banthin, senior fellow at the organization. “Our findings show that 4.9 million fewer people will be enrolled in subsidized Marketplace coverage in 2023 if the enhanced credits aren’t extended. This comes at a pivotal time when millions of people will be losing Medicaid as the public health emergency expires.

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FEATURED ARTICLE 3

 Average charges for 8 common procedures across ER, retail and urgent care settings 

Alia Paavola – Wednesday, March 30th, 2022  

In 2020, the median charge for a 30- to 44-minute new patient office visit ranged from $164 in a retail clinic to $234 in an urgent care center, according to a March report from Fair Health. 

For the report, Fair Health, an independent nonprofit focused on enhancing transparency of healthcare costs and health insurance information, analyzed billions of private healthcare claims records from its database. 

Below is the average charge for eight common procedures, as identified by CPT code, performed in retail, urgent care and emergency room settings: 

Retail 

  • Office outpatient visit 20-29 minutes (99213): $114 
  • Streptococcus test (87880): $36 
  • Immunization administration (90471): $33 
  • Office outpatient visit 30-39 minutes (99214): $159 
  • Office outpatient, new, 30-44 minutes (99203): $164 
  • Flu test (87804): $42 
  • Office outpatient, new, 15-29 minutes (99202): $131 
  • Flu vaccination (90686): $31 

Urgent care 

  • Office outpatient visit 30-39 minutes (99214): $232 
  • Office outpatient visit 20-29 minutes (99213): $174 
  • Office outpatient, new, 30-44 minutes (99203): $234 
  • Streptococcus test (87880): $43 
  • Office outpatient, new, 45-59 minutes (99204): $313 
  • Flu test (87804): $46 
  • Therapeutic, prophylactic or diagnostic injection (96372): $59 
  • Office outpatient visit, new, 15-29 minutes (99202): 178 

Emergency room 

  • Emergency department visit — high severity/life-threatening (99285): $1,262 
  • Emergency department visit — high/urgent severity (99284): $919 
  • Emergency department visit — moderate severity (99283): $624 
  • Electrocardiogram (93010): $54 
  • Single-view chest X-ray (71045): $58 
  • CT head/brain without contrast material (70450): $323 
  • Two-view chest X-ray (71046): $69 
  • Emergency department visit — low/moderate severity (99282): $444 

MEDICARE FOR ALL? (AND “THE TOOTH FAIRY PROMISES A 2 YEAR TREASURY NOTE PAYING 10.7% UNDER YOUR PILLOW IN 2020)

OpEd by D. Kenton Henry                                                                                           01 October 2019  HealthandMedicare.com

       VS.                 

I listened to the recent Democrat Presidential Primary Debates, as I listen to the daily sound bites in the media, as candidates try unabashedly to outdo each other. They do this in terms of the massive give-aways they promise us if elected in 2020. They promise these things not just to citizens, but everyone within the border of the United States. My incredulity, upon hearing such, exceeds even those bounds.

Their original promise is “free healthcare for all”. Healthcare free of premiums, deductibles, and copays. Medicare is the vehicle. To which I must ask myself, “Do these people even know the costs involved in Medicare?” “Do they really believe Medicare pays everything?” They would have you believe as much. They are counting on your naivety and lack of familiarity with the subject.

What makes Medicare a convenient and acceptable form of medical coverage for millions of people 65 and older (or disabled for 24 months or more) is it working in conjunction with private insurance plans. That, and thousands of licensed and “Certified” agents and brokers, helping to deliver comprehensive medical coverage at an affordable price. It is a hybrid package that provides as complete protection as available. The insurance plans would not exist without Medicare and, by itself, Medicare leaves the recipient/member exposed to significant liabilities.

Do these candidates, and the average voter know that in 2019:

A hospital admission requires the Medicare member to pay a $1,364 deductible each time they are admitted to the hospital as an inpatient for a separate medical condition, or the same medical condition separated by more than 60 days.

For days beyond 60, they pay $335 per day

Beyond day 90, they pay $682 per day

Eventually― say in the event of a stroke, paralysis, or being severely burned―they will pay all costs.

Part B Co-Insurance, Deductible and Premium

Relative to out-patient medical care, the Medicare member pays 20%, plus can be liable for excess charges above and beyond what Medicare deems “reasonable and customary”.

In addition, Medicare recipients pay an annual deductible of $185 for Medicare Part B (out-patient) medical care and a premium generally beginning at $135.50 per month and increasing to as high as $460.50. The latter depending on one’s adjusted gross income.

Perhaps most important, to take note of, in considering whether “Medicare For All” is even feasible, much less cost effective, is this. Medicare recipients have paid into the Medicare program their entire working careers via Medicare care taxes and payroll deductions. To qualify for Part A, (inpatient) coverage, they must have worked a minimum of 40 quarters or “buy in “with a premium as high as $422 per month.

So, you can see, Medicare is hardly free. And yet these candidates would have you believe it will be provided free of premiums, deductibles, and copays. (Now this is where even The Tooth Fairy raises her eyebrows!) It will be GIVEN, not to just those over 65, but to every man, woman, child, legal, and non-legal citizen or resident of the United States―whether they have paid a dime into the system or not.

Factor all that in and process this. Medicare now spends an average of about $13,600 a year per beneficiary, and in five years, the annual cost is expected to average more than $17,000, the report said.

According to CMS.gov (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ― refer to featured article 1 below*) The Medicare Board of Trustees predicts Medicare’s two trust funds, for Part A and Part B and D, respectively ― will go broke in 2026!

To put things in perspective, in 1960 there were about five workers for every Social Security beneficiary. The ratio of workers to beneficiaries fell to 3.3 in 2005 and then to 2.8 in 2016. It will decline further to about 2.2 by 2035, when most baby boomers will have retired, officials said.

The aging of the population is another factor in the growth of the two entitlement programs. The number of Medicare beneficiaries is expected to surge to 87 million in 2040, from 60 million this year, according to Medicare actuaries. And the number of people on Social Security is expected to climb to 90 million, from 62 million, in the same period.

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All this and the candidates would have you believe our government can provide free health care to everyone? When it can’t even provide it to our current citizens who have paid into the system their entire working lives! And who exactly is the government? “We The People”. We the tax payers. You and I. Even some of the candidates, admit the proposal will call for more taxes from the middle class. More? Really! One projected cost for Medicare For All is 39 trillion dollars over the first ten year period. The national debt is currently $22 trillion and took since the end of President Andrew Jackson’s administration (1837 and the last time the national debt was fully paid-off) to accumulate that! The combined wealth of all American households is less than $99 trillion. One can only conclude that “Medicare For All” would be a “Welfare System For All”. It would push our country into a socialist economic system to a depth from which it would be impossible to extricate itself.

As a new Medicare recipient, myself, I find the combination of the government program and private insurance working very well for myself and clients, from an insured standpoint. The program’s, and our nation’s, fiscal concerns are a more substantial matter and a topic for another time. With Medicare “Open Enrollment” a mere 15 days away, I can only say, “I hope whoever is President, and controls Congress, in future administrations―while providing a safety net for all American citizens―first and foremost, provides the capable, responsible, American taxpayer quality medical coverage―free of rationing of treatment and access to providers. At an affordable cost.”

D. Kenton Henry, editor HealthandMedicareInsurance.com, Agent, Broker

Email: Allplanhealthinsurance.com@gmail.com https://TheWoodlandsTXHealthInsurance.com https://Allplanhealthinsurance.com https://HealthandMedicareInsurance.com 

 

************************************************************************************Featured article:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Press release

Medicare Trustees Report shows Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will deplete in 7 years

Apr 22, 2019 

Medicare Trustees Report shows Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will deplete           in 7 years

Today, the Medicare Board of Trustees released their annual report for Medicare’s two separate trust funds — the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, which funds Medicare Part A, and the Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund, which funds Medicare Part B and D.

The report found that the HI Trust Fund will be able to pay full benefits until 2026, the same as last year’s report.For the 75-year projection period, the HI actuarial deficit has increased to 0.91 percent of taxable payroll from 0.82 percent in last year’s report. The change in the actuarial deficit is due to several factors, most notably lower assumed productivity growth, as well as effects from slower projected growth in the utilization of skilled nursing facility services, higher costs and lower income in 2018 than expected, lower real discount rates, and a shift in the valuation period.

The Trustees project that total Medicare costs (including both HI and SMI expenditures) will grow from approximately 3.7 percent of GDP in 2018 to 5.9 percent of GDP by 2038, and then increase gradually thereafter to about 6.5 percent of GDP by 2093. The faster rate of growth in Medicare spending as compared to growth in GDP is attributable to faster Medicare population growth and increases in the volume and intensity of healthcare services.

The SMI Trust Fund, which covers Medicare Part B and D, had $104 billion in assets at the end of 2018. Part B helps pay for physician, outpatient hospital, home health, and other services for the aged and disabled who voluntarily enroll. It is expected to be adequately financed in all years because premium income and general revenue income are reset annually to cover expected costs and ensure a reserve for Part B costs. However, the aging population and rising health care costs are causing SMI projected costs to grow steadily from 2.1 percent of GDP in 2018 to approximately 3.7 percent of GDP in 2038. Part D provides subsidized access to drug insurance coverage on a voluntary basis for all beneficiaries, as well as premium and cost-sharing subsidies for low-income enrollees.  Findings revealed that Part D drug spending projections are lower than in last year’s report because of slower price growth and a continuing trend of higher manufacturer rebates.

President Donald J. Trump’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget, if enacted, would continue to strengthen the fiscal integrity of the Medicare program and extend its solvency.  Under President Trump’s leadership, CMS has already introduced a number of initiatives to strengthen and protect Medicare and proposed and finalized a number of rules that advance CMS’ priority of creating a patient-driven healthcare system through competition.  In particular, CMS is strengthening Medicare through increasing choice in Medicare Advantage and adding supplemental benefits to the program; offering more care options for people with diabetes; providing new telehealth services; and lowering prescription drug costs for seniors.  CMS is also continuing work to advance policies to increase price transparency and help beneficiaries compare costs across different providers.

The Medicare Trustees are: Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex M. Azar; Treasury Secretary and Managing Trustee, Steven Mnuchin; Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta; and Acting Social Security Commissioner, Nancy A. Berryhill. CMS Administrator Seema Verma is the secretary of the board.

The report is available at https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/ReportsTrustFunds/index.html.

***************************************************************************************************

*Featured Article #2

Politics

Health insurers ramp up lobbying battle against Medicare-for-all

By Ana Radelat

The CT Mirror |

Aug 12, 2019 | 6:00 AM

Health insurers have joined forces with their longtime foe, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as partnering with the American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals, to form a coalition to fight Medicare-for-all proposals and other Democratic plans to alter the nation’s health care.

As Democratic presidential candidates embrace changes to the nation’s health care system that could threaten Connecticut’s health insurers, the industry is hitting back.

Health insurers have joined forces with their longtime foe, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as partnering with the American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals, to form a coalition to fight Medicare-for-all proposals and other Democratic plans to alter the nation’s health care.

The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, funded by the insurance industry and its allies, is running digital and television ads aimed at undermining support for Medicare-for-all proposals and plans for a “public option,” a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurance plans.

The partnership was formed a little more than a year ago to protect the nation’s current health care programs, mainly the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid.

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The organization’s executive director, Lauren Crawford Shaver, said diverse groups in the coalition found a common cause in 2017 — opposing an attempt by congressional Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We came together to protect the law of the land,” she said.

That battle was won. Coalition members determined they should continue to band together to ward off other political dangers.

“There’s a lot of things we might fight about, but there’s a lot we can agree on,” Crawford Shaver said.

Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have called for a Medicare-for-all through a single-payer system, in which all Americans would be enrolled automatically in a government plan.

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Warren was among several candidates during the most recent Democratic debates who took aim at health insurers.

“These insurance companies do not have a God-given right to make $23 billion in profits and suck it out of our health care system,” she said.

Other candidates prefer a more modest approach, offering a “public option” or Medicare buy-in plan that would allow Americans to purchase government-run coverage, but unlike Medicare-for-all would not eliminate the role of private insurers.

That split among Democrats also runs through Connecticut’s congressional delegation, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, endorsing Medicare-for-all plans and the other lawmakers supporting Medicare buy-in or public option plans.

The nation’s health insurers oppose all of the Democratic proposals discussed during the two nights of debates.

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The insurers’ message is simple: The Affordable Care Act is working reasonably well and should be improved, not repealed by Republicans or replaced by Democrats with a big new public program. Further, they say, more than 155 million Americans have employer-sponsored health coverage and should be allowed to keep it.

Insurers also say that public option and Medicare buy-in plans would lead the nation down the path of a one-size-fits-all health care system run by bureaucrats in Washington D.C.

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They say offering a public option or a Medicare buy-in would prompt employers to drop coverage for their workers and starve hospitals, especially those in rural areas, since government-run health plans usually reimburse doctors and hospitals less for medical services than private insurers. They also say Medicare-for-all and other Democratic proposals will lead to huge tax increases to pay for the plans.

“Whether it’s called Medicare for all, Medicare buy-in or the public option, the results will be the same: Americans will be forced to pay more and wait longer for worse care,” said Crawford Shaver.

The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future ran its first television ad on CNN just before and after the cable channel ran last week’s debates.

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The commercial showed several “ordinary Americans” at home and work decrying “one-size fits-all” health plans and “bureaucrats and politicians” determining care.

“We need to fix what’s broken, not start over,” the final speaker says.

Members of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future have a lot of money and influence to wield on Capitol Hill. They spent a combined $143 million lobbying in 2018 alone, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

And coalition members appear eager to spend even more lobbying money this year.

In the first six months of this year, America’s Health Insurance Plan, a health insurer industry group and member of the partnership, spent more than $5 million on lobbying expenses, and is on the way to surpassing the $6.7 million it spent in lobbying last year.

To underscore the health insurance industries’ importance to local economies, AHIP releases a state-by-state data book each year that details coverage, employment and taxes paid.

In Connecticut, the industry employs 12,296 workers directly and generates another 13,586 jobs indirectly, AHIP says. The payroll for both these groups of workers totals over $3.8 billion a year, AHIP says, and the average annual salary in the business is $112,770. The Connecticut Association of Health Plans puts the number higher, saying Connecticut has 25,000 direct jobs related to the health insurance industry, and another 24,000 indirect jobs.

AHIP also estimates that Connecticut collects nearly $200 million a year in premium taxes on health care policies sold in the state.

Connecticut’s reliance on health insurers – and their continuing influence – was on full display during the last legislative session when the insurance companies, led by Bloomfield-based Cigna, derailed