Truth #1: Many Opt-Out of Medicare?

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/medicare-all-opt-outs-denny-weinberg/

For All?

… like liberty and justice, Medicare is imagined by some to be All-American. But is it? Can it be? Should it be?

A Historical Perspective:

In 1965, the first year of Medicare, nearly 19 Million Americans enrolled, 56% of whom were previously uninsured according to a Kennedy-era study. It was a simple program back then, providing only acute hospital and physician coverage for Americans over age 65. It was the only real health insurance option for people over age 65, virtually all of whom retired by that age back then.

Today, an estimated 63 Mil or 18% of the US population are eligible for Medicare. And after decades of major program changes, the 2018 program covers more than just older Americans, and Medicare coverage is more complex and broader than the original program. Like the original program (Traditional Medicare), the coverage still has substantial patient exposures for deductibles, co-payments and lifetime / per-incident limits. And, despite popular folklore, it is far more expensive due to the same pressures that impact coverages for the rest of us.

Along the way, other alternative or complementary coverages have emerged. No surprise, this dynamic reflects in part, the vastly different nature and demands of American consumers including older American consumers. These newer coverage sources include private insurers, employers, unions, states, municipalities and school districts as well as expanded coverages for the poor (including the older poor).

Does Medicare ALONE Work For Those That Have Access Today?

Consider this:

  • 38 Mil, or only 60% of those eligible are enrolled in Traditional Medicare. But because of indexing coverage limitations, only 19% of these Traditional Program participants do not have some form of supplemental or alternative coverage.
  • Another 9 Mil are over 65 but still working, and only because of their employer wrap-around coverage, Medicare is workable.
  • Another 21 Mil are enrolled in Private Alternatives to Medicare called Advantage Plans after opting out of Traditional Medicare. In 2018 there were 2,317 such Medicare Advantage plans available nationwide allowing the average beneficiary to choose among 21, an increase from 19 in 2017. This is anything but single-payer and becoming less single-payer-like each year due to natural market dynamics.
  • Finally, 12 Mil of all of these are also enrolled in Medicaid (dually eligible), due to low income, disability, etc. Most are part of the 38 Mil people with Traditional Medicare, but only because of the Medicaid program, their Medicare is coverage and price affordable and/or relevant.

What Does This Say About Medicare For All?

Nearly 1/2 of all who are offered Medicare today choose a private market alternative, or can only make it work due to other private market wraparound safety nets. So why do we think Medicare will be attractive to the rest of the population without similar private market protections?

 

CMS opening up options for states to better manage dual-eligible patients

CMS opening up options for states to better manage dual-eligible patients

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According to data from CMS, while dual-eligible patients make up only 15 percent of Medicaid enrollees, they are responsible for 33 percent of the program’s expenditures.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is looking to partner with states to determine better models to treat the 12 million dual-eligible Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries in the country.

CMS and states spend more than $300 billion annually on this patient population, many of whom suffer from multiple chronic conditions made more difficult to treat by social and economic barriers.

The cost for dual-eligible population is outsized when compared to its size. According to data from CMS, while dual-eligible patients make up only 15 percent of Medicaid enrollees, they are responsible for 33 percent of the program’s expenditures.

“Less than 10 percent of dually eligible individuals are enrolled in any form of care that integrates Medicare and Medicaid services, and instead have to navigate disconnected delivery and payment systems,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.

“This lack of coordination can lead to fragmented care for individuals, misaligned incentives for payers and providers, and administrative inefficiencies and programmatic burdens for all.”

The goal from the agency is to promote new models which can better integrate Medicare and Medicaid services and create a more seamless experience for both beneficiaries and providers working across the two programs.

One major goal is to allow states to share in savings and benefits gained from investment in better care for the dual-eligible population.

In a letter addressed to state Medicaid leaders, Verma laid out a few potential payment approaches to address the issue of dual eligible patients, including a capitated payment model which would provide the full array of Medicare and Medicaid services with a set dollar reimbursement amount.

Nine states are currently piloting the model, which creates a three-way contract between the state, CMS and Medicare-Medicaid Plans. So far, CMS said state savings for states have averaged 4.4 percent in these test markets.

Through the experiments, Verma said the agency has been able to foster a competitive marketplace with multiple offerings that incentivizes health plans to invest in services that address the patient population.

CMS said it is currently open to extending the initial state pilots and expanding the geographic scope of the capitated programs.

For states that administer dual-eligible patients on a fee-for-service basis, Verma laid out a merged managed care model that would allow states to share in Medicare savings for metrics like reducing hospital readmissions.

Washington and Colorado are currently testing out the model. In one instance, providers in Washington are using Medicaid health homes to deliver high-intensity care to high-risk beneficiaries and sharing in the cost savings.

CMS said preliminary data from Washington’s program has been positive, with gross savings for Medicare Part A and Part B of 11 percent over three years. This has resulted in $36 million in performance payments to the state.

The letter from CMS also opens up the opportunity to potentially partner on state-specific models developed internally meant to better serve dual eligible patients and reduce Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.

CMS has made payment delivery reform a key initiative, with the ultimate goal of moving towards a outcomes-based payment system and reducing expenditures as Medicare faces an uncertain future.

A few recent initiatives include the launch of the agency’s Primary Cares Model, as well as the recent expansion of supplementary benefits for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries meant to tackle social determinants of health.

 

 

 

What is a SNP?

http://bettermedicarealliance.org/snps?utm_source=rollcallheadlines&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletters

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SNPs are a type of Medicare Advantage plan that are paid and regulated in the same way as other Medicare Advantage plans, but have the authority to provide specialized care to serve beneficiaries who are dually-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, have certain chronic conditions, or receive long-term care in an institutional setting such as a Skilled Nursing Facility. In addition to providing all Medicare Part A and Part B benefits, SNPs must also exceed these core benefits by providing reduced cost sharing, individualized care plans, and other tailored benefits related to mental health, social services, and wellness.

AHCA Would Affect Medicare, Too

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/blog/2017/may/ahca-would-affect-medicare?omnicid=EALERT1211869&mid=henrykotula@yahoo.com

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“Don’t touch my Medicare” has been a rallying cry in recent years, first as Congress considered health reform and now as it debates the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the bill that would repeal and replace the ACA—the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—does not include explicit changes to Medicare, the legislation could have a profound impact on the 11 million Medicare beneficiaries who also rely on Medicaid for key components of their care. Here’s a look at how the ACHA’s major changes in federal funding for Medicaid would affect low-income older adults and the Medicare program.

One-Third of All Medicaid Spending Is for People Covered by Medicare

Low-income Medicare beneficiaries who also are enrolled in Medicaid—often referred to as “dual eligibles”—could be disproportionately affected by congressional efforts to cut and cap federal Medicaid financing. Not only do these older adults account for one-third of all Medicaid spending, much of the Medicaid spending for low-income Medicare beneficiaries is “optional” for states.1

The nearly three-quarters (72%) of dual eligibles who receive full Medicaid benefits are most at risk under the AHCA’s funding caps.2  They tend to be in poorer health than other Medicare (and Medicaid) beneficiaries, and rely on Medicaid for high-cost services.3  While Medicare covers physician, hospital, and most other acute care, Medicaid covers some of dual eligibles’ behavioral health services as well as most of their long-term services and supports, such as nursing home and home and community-based services. Under federal law, many of these services are optional. Similarly, many low-income Medicare beneficiaries who qualify for Medicaid are “optional” beneficiaries who qualify only when they incur health and long-term care costs that are well in excess of their incomes. States can drop optional services and optional enrollees even without any new federal flexibility.

Will Medicare Premium Increases Be an Issue in November?

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/06/22/will-medicare-premium-increases-be-an-issue-in-november/

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Buried in the Medicare trustees report released Wednesday are a few lines that could cause political controversy. “In 2017 there may be a substantial increase in the Part B premium rate for some beneficiaries,” the actuaries write—which means seniors will find out about increases shortly before Election Day.

Higher-than-expected Medicare spending in 2014 and 2015 set the stage for a large premium adjustment in 2016. But, notably, the absence of inflation thanks to the drop in energy prices last year meant that seniors receiving Social Security benefits did not receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment.

The Medicare statute has a “hold harmless” provision that prevents Part B premiums from rising by more than the amount of a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. For most beneficiaries, the provision meant that in 2016, they received no such adjustment—but also did not pay a higher Part B premium. However, nearly one-third of beneficiaries—new Medicare enrollees, “dual eligibles” enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid (in places where state Medicaid programs pay the Medicare Part B premium), and wealthy seniors subject to Medicare means-testing—do not qualify for the provision.

The New York Times noted last fall that the hold-harmless provision, by protecting most beneficiaries, exposed some to higher increases: “If premiums are frozen for 70 percent of beneficiaries, premiums for the other 30 percent must be raised more to cover the expected increase in overall Medicare costs. In other words … the higher Medicare costs must be spread across a smaller group of people.”