Medicare is divided into four Parts. Medicare Part A covers hospital (inpatient, formally admitted only), skilled nursing (only after being formally admitted to a hospital for three days and not for custodial care), and hospice services. Part B covers outpatient services including some providers' services while inpatient at a hospital, outpatient hospital charges, most provider office visits even if the office is "in a hospital," and most professionally administered prescription drugs. Part D covers mostly self-administered prescription drugs. Part C is an alternative called Managed Medicare by the Trustees that allows patients to choose health plans with at least the same service coverage as Parts A and B (and most often more), often the benefits of Part D, and always an annual OOP spend limit which A and B lack. The beneficiary must enroll in Parts A and B first before signing up for Part C.
Original Medicare, Part A and B, pays for many of your health-care services and supplies, but it doesn’t pay for everything. That’s why you may want to consider getting a Medicare Supplement plan, also called Medigap. Unlike Original Medicare, a Medicare Supplement plan is offered through private insurance companies. These Medigap plans help pay some of the hospital and medical costs that Original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as copayments, coinsurance, and yearly deductibles.
Chemotherapy and other medications dispensed in a physician's office are reimbursed according to the Average Sales Price, a number computed by taking the total dollar sales of a drug as the numerator and the number of units sold nationwide as the denominator. The current reimbursement formula is known as "ASP+6" since it reimburses physicians at 106% of the ASP of drugs. Pharmaceutical company discounts and rebates are included in the calculation of ASP, and tend to reduce it. In addition, Medicare pays 80% of ASP+6, which is the equivalent of 84.8% of the actual average cost of the drug. Some patients have supplemental insurance or can afford the co-pay. Large numbers do not. This leaves the payment to physicians for most of the drugs in an "underwater" state. ASP+6 superseded Average Wholesale Price in 2005, after a 2003 front-page New York Times article drew attention to the inaccuracies of Average Wholesale Price calculations.
If you plan to travel a lot or simply want to choose doctors without concerns over only picking providers on an HMO or PPO network, you might compare Medigap plans. With a supplement, you will have to buy Medicare Part D to cover most prescription medications. This may cost somewhat more, but some folks prefer to choose their drug plan separately from the rest of their medical benefits.
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Medicare supplement plans are related to Medicare. Like Medicare’s “Parts”, each plan letter offers different benefits and has a different premium amount. They are designed to fill the “coverage gaps” in Original Medicare benefits (hence the name Medigap). These products will cover healthcare expenses otherwise left out of Original Medicare coverage, like coinsurance and deductibles. However, Medigap plans do not include dental, vision, or any other supplemental health insurance benefits.
Retirement of the Baby Boom generation is projected by 2030 to increase enrollment to more than 80 million. In addition the facts that the number of workers per enrollee will decline from 3.7 to 2.4 and that overall health care costs in the nation are rising pose substantial financial challenges to the program. Medicare spending is projected to increase from just over $740 billion in 2018 to just over $1.2 trillion by 2026, or from 3.7% of GDP to 4.7%. Baby-boomers are projected to have longer life spans, which will add to the future Medicare spending. The 2019 Medicare Trustees Report estimates that spending as a percent of GDP will grow to 6% by 2043 (when the last of the baby boomers turns 80) and then flatten out to 6.5% if GDP by 2093. In response to these financial challenges, Congress made substantial cuts to future payouts to providers (primarily acute care hospitals and skilled nursing facilities) as part of PPACA in 2010 and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and policymakers have offered many additional competing proposals to reduce Medicare costs further.
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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), administers Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), and parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ("Obamacare"). Along with the Departments of Labor and Treasury, the CMS also implements the insurance reform provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and most aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 as amended. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for determining Medicare eligibility, eligibility for and payment of Extra Help/Low Income Subsidy payments related to Parts C and D of Medicare, and collecting most premium payments for the Medicare program.
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This concept is basically how public Medicare Part C already works (but with a much more complicated competitive bidding process that drives up costs for the Trustees, but is very advantageous to the beneficiaries). Given that only about 1% of people on Medicare got premium support when Aaron and Reischauer first wrote their proposal in 1995 and the percentage is now 35% on the way to 50% by 2040 according to the Trustees, perhaps no further reform is needed.
These Medigap insurance policies are standardized by CMS, but are sold and administered by private companies. Some Medigap policies sold before 2006 may include coverage for prescription drugs. Medigap policies sold after the introduction of Medicare Part D on January 1, 2006 are prohibited from covering drugs. Medicare regulations prohibit a Medicare beneficiary from being sold both a public Part C Medicare health plan and a private Medigap Policy. As with public Part C health plans, private Medigap policies are only available to beneficiaries who are already signed up for Original Medicare Part A and Part B. These policies are regulated by state insurance departments rather than the federal government although CMS outlines what the various Medigap plans must cover at a minimum. Therefore, the types and prices of Medigap policies vary widely from state to state and the degree of underwriting, discounts for new members, open enrollment and guaranteed issue also varies widely from state to state.
In 2003 Congress passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law on December 8, 2003. Part of this legislation included filling gaps in prescription-drug coverage left by the Medicare Secondary Payer Act that was enacted in 1980. The 2003 bill strengthened the Workers' Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Program (WCMSA) that is monitored and administered by CMS.
Medicare Part B premiums are commonly deducted automatically from beneficiaries' monthly Social Security checks. They can also be paid quarterly via bill sent directly to beneficiaries. This alternative is becoming more common because whereas the eligibility age for Medicare has remained at 65 per the 1965 legislation, the so-called Full Retirement Age for Social Security has been increased to 66 and will go even higher over time. Therefore, many people delay collecting Social Security but join Medicare at 65 and have to pay their Part B premium directly.