by Art Kelly
1. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has redesigned the statement that informs beneficiaries about their claims for services and benefits.
In a statement, Marilyn Tavenner, the Acting Administrator of CMS, said, "The new Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) empowers seniors and people with disabilities. The statement is easier to understand and navigate and makes clear what information to check and how to report potential fraud. The new MSN also makes it easier for people with Medicare to understand their benefits and file appeals if a claim is denied."
To see a side-by-side comparison of the former and redesigned MSNs, one is online at
http://www.cms.gov/apps/files/msn_changes.pdf (The page is set at 55.3% and should be adjusted to either 75% or 100% to read the sample documents in larger size.)
The Washington Post reported that the current form that is being replaced "can run more than a dozen pages for those with multiple doctor visits and treatments and are full of medical jargon and abbreviations that often read like a secret code. That complexity can mask mistakes or out-and-out fraud that drive up Medicare costs and can jeopardize future services for beneficiaries."
In an article in the Post, Susan Jaffe of Kaiser Health News explains that, because the new forms will be in larger, easier to read print and without confusing terminology, they will likely help seniors spot Medicare fraud.
by Art Kelly
1. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claims that Obamacare provides health insurance for nearly 50,000 persons with high-risk pre-existing conditions.
HHS has released a new report to show that Obamacare is helping to fill a void in the insurance market for consumers with pre-existing conditions who are denied insurance coverage and are ineligible for Medicare or Medicaid coverage.
Sebelius said that, thanks to Obamacare, which she called the Affordable Care Act, "Our most vulnerable Americans across the country have the care they need."
In a news release, HHS states that, under this law, persons with serious medical problems "are not charged a higher premium. Program participants pay comparable premium rates to healthy people."
Information, including eligibility, plan benefits, and rates, as well as information on how to apply, is available online at https://www.pcip.gov/ Information is also available by phone at 1-866-717-5826 (TTY 1-866-561-1604) from 8 AM to 11 PM Eastern Time.
However, in order for pre-existing conditions to be covered, it is necessary to require all persons, especially young adults in good health, to purchase health insurance. The constitutionality of this provision in Obamacare is currently being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.
by Art Kelly
President Obama quietly signed into law the payroll tax deal that recently passed Congress which will increase the national debt by $101 Billion.
Rather than the customary signing ceremony, Obama just signed the bill by himself in the Oval Office. The White House did release a picture of the President affixing his signature to the legislation.
The bill, HR 3630, by Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) and 5 cosponsors, continues until the end of the year the reduction from 6.2% to 4.2% of the payroll tax, which funds Social Security. Money is transferred from the general fund to the Social Security Trust Fund to compensate for the lost revenue.
This reduction was also in effect in 2011 for what was supposed to be for only one year. It added $112 Billion to the national debt. The first two months of 2012 were paid for by fees on Fannie Mae mortgages. But rather than pay for the remaining 10 months through cuts in spending, House Republicans decided to further increase the national debt.
by Art Kelly
Republicans in the House and Senate are on the verge of agreeing with the Democrats to pass an economic package that will add $100 Billion to the national debt by extending the "temporary" reduction of the payroll tax for the rest of the year without any corresponding spending cuts.
House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner, agreed to extend the reduction of the payroll tax, which funds Social Security, from 6.2% to 4.2% for the remainder of 2012. As was done last year, the general fund would reimburse the Social Security Trust Fund for the loss of revenue.
This transfer of funds to Social Security increased the deficit by $112 Billion in 2011. As reported in a previous issue of this newsletter, this reduced payroll tax was extended for the first two months of 2012, financed by fees on Fannie Mae mortgages. This 2-month extension was engineered by Senate Republicans and Democrats in order to allow time to decide what to do about the remaining 10 months of the year.
Strangely, just before Christmas, the House created a crisis when it refused to accept this approach. The Senate, thinking there was an agreement, had already adjourned and left town.
Another issue of this newsletter explained that the House instead wanted to pass an economic package that would have added $244.175 Billion to the national debt. In theory, after 10 years, future spending cuts would have eventually restored this money.
by Art Kelly
1. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that its online Hospital Compare database will now include information about how often preventable infections occur in hospital intensive care units across the country.
Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) are among the most serious of all healthcare-associated infections, resulting in thousands of deaths each year and nearly $700 million in added costs to the healthcare system.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are about 41,000 CLABSIs in U.S. hospitals each year.
Studies show that up to 25% of patients who get a CLABSI will die from the infection. Caring for a patient with a CLABSI adds about $17,000 to a hospitalization.
This newly accessible information is intended to hold hospitals accountable for bringing down these rates, potentially saving thousands of lives and millions of dollars each year.
Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said, "Adding this information to Hospital Compare extends the Administration's commitment to make American healthcare safer."
by Art Kelly
Writing in Newsmax, Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D., says Romneycare and Obamacare are identical.
McCaughey's 1993 analysis of Hillarycare exposed the exact mechanics of this complicated legislation. Her analysis is credited by Wikipedia with being the major factor in turning public opinion overwhelmingly against the bill.
She was later elected lieutenant governor of New York. More recently, McCaughey has written The Obama Health Law: What It Says and How to Overturn It.
McCaughey states that Romneycare, signed into law in Massachusetts in 2006 by Governor Mitt Romney, has more in common with Obamacare than just the requirement that each person must purchase private health insurance.
She says Romneycare "broadens the powers of government to dictate treatment decisions and even interferes in where and how patients die. The result will be a breathtaking shift of decision-making from the doctor at bedside to the state."
by Art Kelly
1. House Republican leaders are drafting legislation to replace Obamacare with a new law to address some of the same problems that the President's heath care legislation was intended to solve.
The Associated Press reports that Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA), Chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the GOP leadership wants to be ready in the event the U.S. Supreme Court declares Obamacare to be unconstitutional in its entirety.
The Court is expected to render a decision on it in June.
Since the law lacks a routine "severance clause," to provide that if any part in it is declared unconstitutional, the rest of it is not affected, some observers believe Obamacare may be totally voided.
If that happens, this new bill will be ready for immediate consideration. It would include medical malpractice reform, high-risk insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions, tax breaks for individuals and small businesses to buy health insurance, and sale of policies in interstate commerce.
by Art Kelly
The January 16 Republican presidential candidates debate, cosponsored by the Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal, contained an extensive discussion of Medicare and Social Security.
The current issue of What’s Happening with Conservatives and the Tea Party reports that Newt Gingrich's powerful performance in the debate may boost his chances in the South Carolina primary and beyond.
But Rick Santorum strongly dominated the portion of the debate that related to the financing of Social Security.
When Gingrich advocated personal retirement accounts (PRA) in lieu of Social Security, Santorum called that position "irresponsible" because it would divert payroll taxes away from paying benefits to seniors.
Santorum stated that he had been for PRAs when there were Social Security surpluses, but now that payroll taxes are not raising enough money to pay full benefits, the IOUs in the Social Security Trust Fund must be redeemed. Since money is no longer available to use for PRAs, Santorum called Gingrich's proposal "fiscal insanity."
Gingrich replied that the money to pay for PRAs would come from consolidating 185 different federal bureacracies that deal with low income Americans.
by Art Kelly
1. Rasmussen Reports' new poll shows that 54% of the people want Obamacare repealed, including 42% who feel strongly about it, while 42% oppose repeal of Obamacare, including 29% who feel strongly about it.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has continued a steady stream of taxpayers-financed propaganda in support of Obamacare, which HHS calls the Affordable Care Act.
Recent examples of HHS news releases promoting Obamacare include:
However, it appears the public is not buying into the purported benefits of Obamacare. A Rasmussen Reports chart shows the consistency of opposition to this law providing for government-run health care since its passage in March 2010. Part of the chart appears below.
by Art Kelly
House leaders finally agreed to the Senate approach to the payroll tax cut, extending it for the first two months of 2012 while considering sources of funding for the additional 10 months, rather than financing it through massive deficit spending.
A previous issue of this newsletter reported that the House passed HR 3630, a bill to extend for an additional year the reduction of the payroll tax, which funds Social Security, from 6.2% to 4.2%.
Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann opposed this scheme, which would not help the economy and which would hurt Social Security. Bachmann blasted this plan when it was first proposed by President Obama, pointing out that it would "blow a hole" in the Social Security Trust Fund.
The lost revenue to the Trust Fund would be paid out of the federal government's general fund and would have added almost a quarter of a Trillion dollars to the national debt. In theory, spending cuts over a decade would eventually make up for these enormous deficits, but no one really believed those cuts would occur.
Another previous issue of this newsletter reported that the Senate greatly improved HR 3630 by amending it to take out the deficit spending and extend the payroll tax cut for just two months, to be financed by fees on Fannie Mae mortgages, while looking at what could be done to fund it for the remainder of the year.