Medicare Patient News

Updates on services and programs covered under Medicare to help senior patients achieve optimal health.

New Patient Survey Ratings for Home Health

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Patients rate their experiences with their home health agency.

Patients rate their experiences with their home health agency.

The government will post a new type of star rating for Medicare-certified home health agencies, reflecting how well they have performed in the eyes of their patients, starting in January 2016.

The “Patient Survey Star Ratings” will be based on data from the Home Health Care Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) Survey, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

CMS also in the process of rolling out home health star ratings based on OASIS assessments and claims data. Going forward, the agency will refer to these as the “Quality of Patient Care Star Rating,” to distinguish them from the new Patient Survey ratings.

More information here.


Study: American Seniors Face Health Care Gaps, Despite Medicare

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Americans older than 65 are more likely to have chronic illnesses and to say they struggle to afford health care – despite qualifying for the federal Medicare program – than are seniors in other industrialized countries, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs.

Study finds poor coordination between caretakers such as regular physicians and specialists is one factor compromising Medicare beneficiaries receiving high-quality care.

Study finds poor coordination between caretakers such as regular physicians and specialists is one factor compromising Medicare beneficiaries receiving high-quality care.

The findings, which are based on phone surveys conducted in 11 industrialized countries, highlight gaps in Medicare coverage that should be addressed, said Donald Moulds, one of the study’s authors and executive vice president for programs at the fund. Among the specific findings:

— 87 percent of U.S. respondents 65 or older indicated having one chronic condition and 68 percent had two or more. Canada was the next highest, with 83 percent having one disease and 56 percent having two or more.

— 19 percent of United States respondents reported cost as an obstacle in getting care last year. The next highest rate was in New Zealand, with 10 percent.

— 55 percent said it “somewhat or very easy” to get care after hours, a figure that was higher in all countries but Sweden, Canada and Australia.

— American respondents were among the most likely to have discussed with a physician healthy lifestyles and end-of-life planning.

— While each nation’s health system had strengths, the survey highlighted room for improvement across the board.The study, which comes in the midst of Medicare’s open enrollment season, may provide beneficiaries with key factors to consider as they review their coverage choices.

On average, beneficiaries with traditional Medicare will end up spending more than $4,000 per year on out-of-pocket health costs, Moulds said, a level of cost-sharing much higher than that seen in comparable nations. Read more


KHN: Seniors’ Obesity-Counseling Benefit Goes Largely Unused

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Three years ago, the Obama administration offered hope to millions of overweight seniors when it announced Medicare would offer free weight-loss counseling.

Thirty percent of seniors are obese and eligible for counseling services.

Thirty percent of seniors are obese and eligible for counseling services.

Officials estimated that about 30 percent of seniors are obese and therefore eligible for counseling services, which studies have shown improve the odds of significant weight loss.

But less than 1 percent of Medicare’s 50 million beneficiaries have used the benefit so far. Experts blame the government’s failure to promote the program, rules that limit where and when patients can go for counseling as well as the low fees for providers.

Since November 2011, about 120,000 seniors have participated, including about 50,000 last year, according to federal data.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University.

“It’s a huge lost opportunity,” said Bonnie Modugno, a registered dietician in Santa Monica, Calif., who advises doctors how to provide weight loss counseling.

By  comparison, about 250,000 seniors last year used Medicare’s tobacco cessation counseling benefit, which started in 2005 and offers greater flexibility about how providers can offer it. Nationally, 9 percent of seniors smoke, while 30 percent are obese.

Obesity and smoking are the two leading causes of preventable death in the United States. Obesity, which is defined as being 35 pounds or more overweight or having a body mass index above 30, increases the risk of many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Read more