KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

For Medicare, Good News For Future, Changes In Hospice Rules

And a new report by a conservative group identifies Medicare Advantage cuts by congressional district.

The Wall Street Journal: For Federal Safety Nets, Mixed Financial Outlooks
The biggest Medicare program is expected to remain financially solvent through 2030, five years longer than previously expected, according to a government estimate released Tuesday that predicts the program's health-care costs will grow more slowly than they did before the recession. The report by the Congressional Budget Office said Medicare's financial picture had improved sharply since its February forecast and the disabled would exhaust its reserves in 2025. , when the nonpartisan budget scorekeeper projected that the portion of the government-run health (Paletta, 7/18).

Reuters: U.S. Medicare Program Scales Back Hospice Drugs Restrictions
The Obama administration on Friday backed down on restrictions of private insurance coverage for hospice drugs under Medicare, saying the regulations were preventing some terminally ill patients from having access to medicine. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said it would now require prior-approval for coverage of only four categories of drugs: analgesics, anti-nauseants, laxatives and anti-anxiety drugs (Morgan, 7/18).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Medicare Modifies Controversial Hospice Drug Rule
The four drug categories were identified in a 2012 investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general. Investigators found that Part D prescription drug plans paid more than $33 million in 2009 that should have probably been covered by the hospice benefit (Jaffe, 7/18).

The Hill: Medicare Backs Off Hospice Drug Hurdles After Criticism
The original rules, finalized in March, asked plan sponsors in Medicare Part D to require "prior authorization" for drugs used in hospice care to ensure the correct division of Medicare paid the bill. The program's inspector general had raised concerns that Part D was paying for drugs for people in hospice when the medications should have been covered by Part A (Viebeck, 7/18).

Politico Pro: AAN Report Highights Medicare Advantage Cuts By District
A new report lays out the impact of Obamacare cuts to private Medicare plans in each congressional district — the latest sign of how the GOP may tout the issue in the midterms. The breakdown, to be released Monday by the conservative American Action Network, gives Republican candidates district-specific numbers of estimated cuts to benefits to bolster their case that Democratic support for the Affordable Care Act has undermined the program. The ACA trims roughly $136 billion in payments to Medicare Advantage over a decade — an effort to bring payments in line with traditional Medicare (Norman, 7/20).

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