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For institutional care, such as hospital and nursing home care, Medicare uses prospective payment systems. In a prospective payment system, the health care institution receives a set amount of money for each episode of care provided to a patient, regardless of the actual amount of care. The actual allotment of funds is based on a list of diagnosis-related groups (DRG). The actual amount depends on the primary diagnosis that is actually made at the hospital. There are some issues surrounding Medicare's use of DRGs because if the patient uses less care, the hospital gets to keep the remainder. This, in theory, should balance the costs for the hospital. However, if the patient uses more care, then the hospital has to cover its own losses. This results in the issue of "upcoding," when a physician makes a more severe diagnosis to hedge against accidental costs.
Medicare differs from private insurance available to working Americans in that it is a social insurance program. Social insurance programs provide statutorily guaranteed benefits to the entire population (under certain circumstances, such as old age or unemployment). These benefits are financed in significant part through universal taxes. In effect, Medicare is a mechanism by which the state takes a portion of its citizens' resources to provide health and financial security to its citizens in old age or in case of disability, helping them cope with the enormous, unpredictable cost of health care. In its universality, Medicare differs substantially from private insurers, which must decide whom to cover and what benefits to offer to manage their risk pools and ensure that their costs don't exceed premiums.
Another wrinkle is that people who want a supplement might have a better chance of getting into the coverage during the transition out of their Medicare Cost plan, when the supplement is provided on a “guaranteed issue” basis. Later, insurance companies can ask questions about a senior’s health status and deny coverage depending on the answers, said Greiner of the Minnesota Board on Aging.
The standardized Medigap plans each cover certain Medicare out-of-pocket costs to at least some degree. Every Medigap plan covers up to one year of Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital costs after Medicare benefits are used up. But, for example, Medigap Plan G plans don’t cover your Medicare Part B deductible, while Medigap Plan C plans do. So, if you’d like to enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, you might want to compare the Medigap policies carefully.
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Some "hospital services" are provided as inpatient services, which would be reimbursed under Part A; or as outpatient services, which would be reimbursed, not under Part A, but under Part B instead. The "Two-Midnight Rule" decides which is which. In August 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a final rule concerning eligibility for hospital inpatient services effective October 1, 2013. Under the new rule, if a physician admits a Medicare beneficiary as an inpatient with an expectation that the patient will require hospital care that "crosses two midnights," Medicare Part A payment is "generally appropriate." However, if it is anticipated that the patient will require hospital care for less than two midnights, Medicare Part A payment is generally not appropriate; payment such as is approved will be paid under Part B. The time a patient spends in the hospital before an inpatient admission is formally ordered is considered outpatient time. But, hospitals and physicians can take into consideration the pre-inpatient admission time when determining if a patient's care will reasonably be expected to cross two midnights to be covered under Part A. In addition to deciding which trust fund is used to pay for these various outpatient vs. inpatient charges, the number of days for which a person is formally considered an admitted patient affects eligibility for Part A skilled nursing services.
Original "fee-for-service" Medicare Parts A and B have a standard benefit package that covers medically necessary care as described in the sections above that members can receive from nearly any hospital or doctor in the country (if that doctor or hospital accepts Medicare). Original Medicare beneficiaries who choose to enroll in a Part C Medicare Advantage or other Part C health plan instead give up none of their rights as an Original Medicare beneficiary, receive the same standard benefits—as a minimum—as provided in Original Medicare, and get an annual out of pocket (OOP) upper spending limit not included in Original Medicare. However they must typically use only a select network of providers except in emergencies or for urgent care while travelling, typically restricted to the area surrounding their legal residence (which can vary from tens to over 100 miles depending on county). Most Part C plans are traditional health maintenance organizations (HMOs) that require the patient to have a primary care physician, though others are preferred provider organizations (which typically means the provider restrictions are not as confining as with an HMO). Others are hybrids of HMO and PPO called HMO-POS (for point of service) and a few public Part C health plans are actually fee for service hybrids.
Medigap plans may cover costs like Medicare coinsurance and copayments, deductibles, and emergency medical care while traveling outside of the United States. There are 10 standardized plan types in 47 states, each given a lettered designation (Plan G, for example). Plans of the same letter offer the same benefits regardless of where you purchase your plan. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin offer their own standardized Medigap plans.
If you are worried that an HMO or PPO plan will try to limit your care, Medicare Advantage is not the only way to get full coverage. For a little more each month you can have the best care available and lower your out-of-pocket expenses. Savvy seniors hold on to their Original Medicare and get the additional coverage they need with a Minnesota Medicare Part D Plan (prescriptions) and Minnesota Medicare Supplement Insurance.
In California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Georgia and the District of Columbia, Kaiser Permanente is an HMO plan with a Medicare contract. In Maryland, Kaiser Permanente is an HMO plan and a Cost plan with a Medicare contract. In Virginia, Kaiser Permanente is a Cost plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Kaiser Permanente depends on contract renewal.
When you apply for Medicare, you can sign up for Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you can turn it down. However, if you decide to enroll in Part B later on, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. Your monthly premium will go up 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.
^ Frakt, Austin (December 13, 2011). "Premium support proposal and critique: Objection 1, risk selection". The Incidental Economist. Retrieved October 20, 2013. [...] The concern is that these public health plans will find ways to attract relatively healthier and cheaper-to-cover beneficiaries (the "good" risks), leaving the sicker and more costly ones (the "bad" risks) in fee for service Medicare. Attracting good risks is known as "favorable selection" and attracting "bad" ones is "adverse selection." [...]