Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Was Newt Gingrich Right about Medicare?

In 1995, Newt Gingrich claimed that Medicare would end. He stated that “going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it — voluntarily.”  Was he right? In the one hand, Medicare total enrollment and spending is rising and the program still has widespread political support. On the other […]

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Medicare Advantage Plan’s Response to Risk Adjustment

Medicare beneficiaries have the option to enroll in private plans to have them operate their benefits rather than use the tradiational Medicare Fee-for-services (FFS) program.  Medicare pays these private plans, known as Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, premiums based on the health status of their enrollees.   Medicare uses a risk score to measure beneficiary health status. […]

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Measuring Patient Case Mix in Medicare

How does Medicare measure patient case mix?  For the most part, Medicare uses the Hierarchical Condition Category (HCC) model.  A recent CMS presentation describes the HCC model in more detail.  Today I review where CMS applies the HCC model, provide an overview of the HCC methodology, briefly describe its performance, and give some background on […]

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Does getting cancer incentivize individuals to switch from Medicare managed care to FFS?

Medicare beneficiaries have a choice: pick the standard Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) benefit or rely on managed care plans to supply their healthcare through the Medicare Advantage (MA) program.  Many Medicare beneficiaries prefer MA because it offers them lower out-of-pocket costs and provide benefits not available in the traditional FFS Medicare program. Other beneficiaries prefer the […]

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Do you support ACOs?

Do you support Accountable Care Organizations?  Many policymakers think they are a great idea.  Why?  If ACOs better integrate care coordination between a variety of physician specialists and other providers, ACOs can increase the efficiency of the health care system.  Improving quality and reducing cost sounds like a great idea. To implement these integrated care settings in […]

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Medicare Advantage Premiums

In 2010, one quarter of Medicare beneficiaries chose capitated plans through the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. According to MedPAC, “[MA] coverage must include all Medicare Part A and Part B benefits except hospice.  All plans, except PFFS [private fee-for-service] plans, must also offer an option that includes the Part D drug benefit.” How do private health plans set premiums […]

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Market Concentration in Medicare Advantage

From the Commonwealth Fund: “The analysis says people have many plans to choose from but that enrollment is concentrated in a handful. It notes, for example, that the average Medicare beneficiary in 2010 has 33 plans from which to choose. But in 14 states and the District of Columbia, a single company (not the same […]

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Medicare Reimbursement Information II

I will continue reviewing some Medicare reimbursement information as described in a variety of MedPAC reports. Medicare Advantage Medicare Advantage is a program where Medicare beneficiaries can receive private heath insurance, partially or fully funded by CMS.  The health insurance must provide coverage at least as generous as Medicare Parts A and B. Private health […]

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Medicare Advantage funding to be cut

David Whelan chronicles the rise (and possibly future fall) of Medicare Advantage programs in his article “Unfilled Prescription” in Forbes. Earlier laws privatizing Medicare, starting with a pilot program in 1985, were written to give insurance companies only 95% of the money otherwise spent per Medicare member. The insurers were supposed to figure out how […]

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Picking a Medicare Plan

Which Medicare plan should you choose? Health journalist Charles Ornstein of the L.A. Times was making just this choice for his mother in “Puzzling out plan option for Medicare.” Even for a veteran health journalist, the choice is not as easy as it seems. Below, I will give some background information which will help people […]

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