Social Security Issues
Research on Social Security Wins Samuelson Award
Peter A. Diamond, an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, is the winner of the 2003 Paul A. Samuelson Award for
Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security for his book,
Taxation, Incomplete Markets, and Social Security. His research is a
unique work on critical issues surrounding Social Security and its
implications for all American households. According to Professor
Diamond’s findings, without Social Security, many workers would not save
enough for retirement. The book also discusses optimal retirement
incentives for people with different life expectancies and diverse
preferences for leisure.
Future Budget Outlook Gloomy (December 22, 2003)
2004 promises to be a challenging one in the US, due to the
upcoming elections. The Congressional Budget Office admits that the large
deficits pose many problems. The CBO focused on the costs associated with
the Social Security and Medicare but largely ignored the need to cancel
the President’s tax cuts or reduce the costs of the military and its
operation. Stay tuned!
Elderly Refugees Losing Federal Payments
Without Citizenship, Benefit Ends After 7 Years (December 15, 2003)
A 1996 US law requires older immigrants to become US citizens after
seven years in order to keep receiving the Supplemental Security Income
from Social Security. Thousands of elderly refugees are being cut off
today from federal benefits since many of them are not yet US citizens.
Supporters of the law argue that the refugees were given enough time and
support to naturalize but refugee advocates say the citizenship tests are
nearly impossible for some to pass. Some elderly refugees are too ill or
traumatized to learn English and others struggle because they had little
schooling in their homelands. Many of those losing the payment face
cancellation of other benefits like Medicaid.
Social Security is next target for president (December 1, 2003
After Medicare, the next “reform” considered by President Bush
will be Social Security. Conservatives
claim the social insurance system will be “insolvent” by 2042.
In fact, the payments will simply exceed the income during the
closing years of the Baby Boom generation.
Bush wants to divert some payroll taxes into private investment
accounts that would be a speculative coup for Wall Street. However, many
Democrats in Congress strongly oppose the creation of such accounts,
saying that such a move toward "privatization" would lead to
financial ruin for seniors.
Graham proposes Social Security personal accounts, AARP says no (November 18, 2003
South Carolina Senator, Lindsey Graham, introduced a new Social
Security reform measure allowing people 54 and under to shift some of
their Social Security contributions into a personal retirement account. No
group representing older Americans supports this measure because it would
reduce benefits and push the system into insolvency.
But Bush plans to make privatization of Social Security a
legislative goal in a second term, if elected.
Medicaid Continues To Bedevil State, Local Budget Writers (November 13, 2003)
George Pataki, in his first State of the State address to the Legislature as governor in 1995, called the cost of the Medicaid program in New York state “staggering”. Pataki declared that Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey and state Health Commissioner Dr. Barbara DeBuono would work to revamp the $22.5 billion program and rein in costs to help state and local taxpayers. "Today, New York's Medicaid system costs three times as much per recipient and often delivers a quality of care inferior to the programs run by other states," the new governor said. Nearly nine years later, McCaughey and DeBuono are long gone from Pataki's administration, New York still spends three times more on Medicaid per recipient than some other states and the program costs federal, state and local taxpayers an even more staggering $26 billion.
Social Security lag saps seniors (November 9, 2003)
Like many seniors who rely on Social Security and Medicare, retired bookkeeper Lucille Price was insulted when she learned her small increase in retirement benefits would be offset by a sharp rise in insurance costs. Social Security's cost-of-living increase for 2004 will be 2.1 percent, or roughly $19 a month for the typical retiree. At the same time, Medicare premiums next year will jump 13.5 percent, or about $7.90 for the average recipient. Medicare premiums are deducted from Social Security checks, leaving a net increase of $11 a month. "It's really a disgrace," Price, 83, said recently while visiting with friends at the Mid-County Senior Citizens Center. "Most of us live on this." "They're going to give us 2 percent (for Social Security), then they're going to take it back with Medicare," retired teacher Roslyn Kalkstein said. "They give it to you with one hand, and take it away with the other."
Medicare idea is planned (November 4, 2003)
A new study concludes that forcing traditional Medicare to compete with
private insurance plans could make it unaffordable to lower-income
seniors, highlighting the thorniest issue facing lawmakers who are trying
to craft a Medicare prescription drug benefit. Price competition in some
parts of the country "could sink the traditional fee-for-service
plan" that is the bulwark of the 38-year-old government health care
program for older and disabled Americans, said Mark Schlesinger, co-author
of the report released Monday by the nonpartisan National Academy of
Frugally: Social Security straps recipients (November 3, 2003)
Next year’s 2.1 percent increase in Social Security benefits will raise
the income of retirees, but not enough to help those struggling to make
ends meet. Growing daily costs, savings rates that fail to keep up with
inflation, and a 13.5 percent rise in Medicare premiums will more than
cancel out the Social Security gains, leaving many fixed-income seniors
worse off than before.
Early Retirees Pay Later,
Broad Study Discovery (November 2, 2003)
Retirees often debate whether it makes more sense to start taking reduced
Social Security payments as early as age 62 or wait until Social
Security's "full retirement" age to get a bigger monthly check.
Here's a reason to consider the latter: For low-wage workers, retiring
early with lower benefits can raise the risk of poverty over time.
drug benefit would not help all older Americans (November 2, 2003)
For older Americans wondering how much help they would get from a Medicare
prescription drug benefit, the answer depends on their income and annual
pharmacy bills. And, it seems, on who's asked. President Bush says the
proposal being negotiated in Congress would cut those bills in half. But
some Democrats and other health care analysts say the plan that
congressional negotiators have tentatively agreed to offers little to
people whose income barely exceeds the limit to receive government
subsidies. "It's a crummy deal and they're pretty needy, too,"
said Marilyn Moon, a health care analyst with the American Institutes for
get boost in benefits (October 29, 2003)
About 500 Thurston County residents are among the 24,000 blind and over-65
people receiving federal Supplemental Security Income who will get a
$1,174 check from the state next month. The payments make up for
monthly state cash supplements eliminated by the Legislature for the
2002-03 fiscal year through December. In January, the state expects to
implement supplemental SSI payments of about $50 per month for the blind
and elderly who are receiving federal SSI benefits. In 2001, state
supplements ranged from $3 to $166 per month. But all SSI recipients on
the books in November will receive a one-time payment of $1,174 in
addition to their federal SSI check.
Social Security benefits for Mexicans (October 29, 2003) Hundreds of
millions of dollars in Social Security payments may someday be headed
south of the border. A Social Security Administration spokesman said U.S.
and Mexican officials are continuing "informal discussions"
about a potential agreement that would allow millions of Mexicans working
here to collect U.S. Social Security benefits in Mexico. The proposal has
riled some Republican lawmakers. They worry that it could reward scores of
undocumented Mexican immigrants with a U.S. pension, draining the
country's Social Security trust fund at a time when its future solvency is
in doubt. Supporters of the proposal argue that Mexican immigrants --
legal and illegal -- pay millions, if not billions, of dollars in payroll
taxes and have the right to claim Social Security benefits.
Jersey: State agency says hiring outside pension fund managers would be
illegal (October 29, 2003)
proposal to have private advisers manage some of New Jersey's pension
funds is illegal, according to a review performed by a nonpartisan state
agency. The opinion issued Tuesday, October 28, by the Office of
Legislative Services said state law prohibits the Treasury Department from
delegating investment decisions to any outside party. It comes weeks a
consultant recommended that private managers be hired to take over some
Medicare Premium and Deductible Rates for 2004 (October 28, 2003)
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced
the new Medicare premium, deductible and coinsurance amounts to be paid by
Medicare beneficiaries in 2004. For Medicare Part A, which pays for
inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility and some home health care,
the deductible paid by the beneficiary will be $876 in 2003, up 4.3
percent from this year's $840 deductible. The monthly premium paid by
beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part B, which covers physician
services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services,
durable medical equipment and other items, will be $66.60, an increase of
13.5 percent over the $58.70 premium for 2003.
Medicare first, then Medicaid (October 27, 2003)
If you think four years of bitter partisan fighting over Medicare
prescription drug coverage has been the mother of all healthcare reform
battles -- and as of Monday, it still was not quite a done deal -- you
need to hold on, because big sister Medicaid is waiting in the wings.
Medicaid often is overshadowed by Medicare in the public's eye and its
growth has taken many by surprise. Medicaid is expected to spend $304
billion in 2004, a five-fold increase since 1989. For the first time, it
will be bigger than Medicare -- which accounts for $289 billion in 2004
spending -- and sits atop the list of public healthcare programs.
Social Security boost
makes little difference to retirees (October 23, 2003)
For seniors like Harry Thaw, the planned 2.1 percent increase
in Social Security benefits next year holds little promise of making life
much easier. Federal Reserve policies to keep interest rates low have
meant seniors are earning very little on savings in the bank accounts and
money market funds they tend to favor. And while inflation has been
moderate for the past couple of years, the prices of goods and services
important to the elderly -- including medical care and fuel for home
heating and cooling -- have risen rapidly.
The Approach on Drug Coverage
Grows More Conservative, Counters Senate's Plan (October 22, 2003)
Low-income Medicare beneficiaries would receive smaller subsidies for
prescription drugs and face tougher asset tests under the plan emerging
from negotiations in Congress than under the bill the Senate adopted. As
many as three million low-income people could be affected; $10,000 or more
in savings would disqualify a low-income person from receiving extra aid
intended to help poor beneficiaries meet their drug co-payments.
Medicare users can face 6- to 8-month waits
(October 22, 2003)
Doctors referring people
to University of Colorado Hospital's specialty clinics say Medicare and
Medicaid patients are turned away or made to wait months for appointments,
sparking concern that University is screening out government-pay patients
in favor of those with private insurance. Referring doctors said that in
the past year, they have collected refusal notices from University stating
that patients won't be seen because clinic doctors are not accepting new
Medicaid or Medicare patients. Others said their patients face six- to
eight-month waits for appointments.
Medicare hot line
informs, comforts Medicare hot line benefits elderly (October 21, 2003)
government announced last week that 2004 monthly payments for doctors'
care would rise 13.5 percent to $66.60, one of the largest increases in
Medicare's history. The deductible for hospital care is going up as well.
Also last week, lawmakers failed to agree on compromise legislation,
missing one of the many deadlines Congress has set to reform Medicare
before next year's elections. It's extraordinarily hard to agree on what
to do about this vast government program for 40 million elderly and
disabled Americans. But here, on the front lines of the health-care
crisis, there is a sense of urgency. Many people who call this hot
line--the official Medicare line in
--are sick and vulnerable.
Compromise Calls for U.S. to
Guarantee Medicare Drug Benefit (October 21, 2003)
In order to guarantee
prescription drug benefits for the elderly, Congress has reached a
tentative agreement to provide a “federal backup plan” for drug
benefits in markets where private insurance companies do not cover
prescription medicines. Democrats had argued that the Republican plan to
rely solely on private insurance companies to provide prescription drug
benefits would leave many people, especially in rural areas, without drug
Security Payout to Rise in January (October 17, 2003)
payments to the nation's 47 million recipients of Social Security benefits
will rise 2.1 percent in January, with the average benefit for retired
workers rising $19, to $922, the government announced on
October 16, 2003
. Most retired federal civilian,
military and Foreign Service workers will get the same 2.1 percent
increase in their pension benefits, which is based on the increase in the
consumer price index from the third quarter of last year to the same
period this year. Retirees covered by the new Federal Employees Retirement
System who are 62 or older will receive a 2 percent increase.
grimly do math of living (October 17, 2003)
Wednesday, October 15, the government said Medicare premiums were going up
13.5 percent, or about $7.90 for the average recipient, to $66.60 a month.
On Thursday, the cost-of-living increase for Social Security benefits was
announced: 2.1 percent, or $19 a month more for the average retiree. Net
result for the average senior: $11.10 ahead each month. "They give it
to you and then they take it away from you," said Helen Howard, 89,
. The twin announcements about the
economics of old age hit the
particularly hard because of its high concentration of Medicare enrollees
and Social Security recipients. About one in five area residents is on
Medicare and Social Security, more than half a million people whose
household incomes will change Jan. 1.
shortfall increases fourfold (October 16, 2003)
A $37 million shortfall in the
state's Medicaid program that came to light last month has now grown to
about $150 million, thanks to higher-than-expected costs in the first
quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1. The problem is now estimated
to be about $112 million bigger than previously reported, in part because
the number of people covered by Medicaid in July, August and September
exceeded projections. In addition, the state's payments to health-care
providers during that three-month period exceeded the amount of money that
had been set aside for such payments.
Premium to Increase by 13.5 Percent Next Year (October 16, 2003)
Medicare premium will shoot up next year to $66.60 a month, an increase of
13.5 percent, or $7.90 a month, the Bush administration said on Wednesday.
That is one of the largest increases in the history of the program.
Federal officials said the rise resulted from increases in Medicare
spending for doctors' services, outpatient hospital care and medical
equipment used at home by beneficiaries. Earlier this year, they noted,
Congress increased payments to doctors. The new premium does not include
the cost of new prescription drug benefits, which would begin in 2006
under legislation that Congress is working on.
U.S. Pension Agency Says It May Need a Bailout
(October 15, 2003)
The troubled government agency that stands behind the nation's
corporate pension plans is suffering mounting losses and could be forced
to seek a taxpayer bailout, the agency's director said Tuesday. Likening
the situation to the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, the director of
the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. told Congress that without structural
changes the system would collapse. The agency, which insures retirement
plans for 44 million American workers and retirees, is running a record
deficit of $8.8 billion — a dramatic jump from the $5.7-billion
shortfall the agency forecast earlier this year. The prime culprit: a
series of major bankruptcies, mainly involving airlines and steel
companies that required the agency to step in and assume the costs of
funding the companies' pensions. Why does the public pick up the tab for
“risk-taking” companies’ failures?
Report Faults Medicaid
Managed Care Plan (October 14, 2003)
are dropped from the Medicaid rolls in New York too frequently, only to
re-enroll later, hindering the program's ability to cut costs and provide
high-quality health care to millions of poor people, a report says. For 12
years, the state has tried to get Medicaid recipients out of
fee-for-service programs and into health maintenance organizations, a
transition that officials predicted would improve care and save money. But
there has been little success in either area, and the main problem is
"churning," in which recipients move in and out of the Medicaid
program, according to the report by the United Hospital Fund, a policy
group that receives financial support from hospitals.
Vermonters to be billed for Medicaid
(October 14, 2003)
Nearly 36,600 Vermonters will begin receiving monthly premium bills
soon for their state-subsidized health care. The bills, from $5 to $75,
will replace the co-payments that participants in
's Medicaid-related health and pharmacy programs paid for their services.
"We've gotten a clear mandate to switch to this system, and our job
is to make sure that it is deployed on time," said John Michael Hall,
commissioner of the department of Prevention, Assistance, Transition and
Health Access. Bills will start going out at the end of next month for
premiums due at the end of December. Participants could lose their health
insurance if they fail to pay on time.
Prescription bills not right medicine for
seniors (October 12, 2003)
Bills recently passed by the U.S. House and Senate to provide a
Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors, although well-intended and
aimed at providing a much-needed benefit for many on Medicare, have
serious flaws. If you are among the more than 12 million retirees who
receive Medigap and/or prescription drug coverage from your former
employer, these benefits are in serious jeopardy. Not only would you
receive less coverage under the current proposals, but the cost would be
higher than that of your employer-sponsored plans.
Medicare Drug Bills
Assailed by Clinton (October 11, 2003)
bills in Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare would
actually raise costs for millions of New Yorkers and result in poorer
coverage for many of them, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Friday.
Though to many Americans Mrs.
embodies the efforts to expand government-sponsored health coverage, she
was one of just 11 Democrats to vote against the Medicare drug bill that
the Senate passed in June. She said on Friday that she would oppose any
bill that emerged from a House-Senate conference committee, unless the
committee came up with a bill more generous than the ones already passed.
"Either version, the Senate or the House, would represent a net loss
for most retirees," Mrs. Clinton said at a news conference with union
leaders, local officials and Representative Timothy Bishop, Democrat of
Law Helps With Retirement Benefits for Workers Hurt on the Job (October
The US Congress passed
new legislation that will help make up for any shortfall in retirement
benefits for federal employees who are disabled or injured while working.
The legislation, which grew out of the case of a
Pentagon employee injured in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will ensure
that workers receive full pension benefits no matter how long their
Dealbreaker (October 10, 2003)
For more than a decade,
a unified electorate has demanded that Congress update Medicare—the
Great Society health insurance program for older and disabled
Americans—to cover the cost of prescription drugs. Medicare is a great
social success: it has extended and improved dramatically the quality of
life for older Americans. But well into its fourth decade the program is
getting rusty. For starters, Medicare does not cover most home or
long-term care and it has imposed harsh limits on the mental health care
that is covered. For years, however, politicians have focused nearly all
their attention on one great coverage gap: the cost of the medicines that
doctors prescribe to their patients. Nearly everyone agrees that it makes
no sense to pay a physician to prescribe a drug that is unaffordable or to
pay for surgeries and hospitalizations that would be avoidable if patients
had access to necessary medications.
Social Security raises to be
thin (October 9, 2003)
Steward Sparks and 47 million other older Americans are bracing for
news on the latest annual increase in Social Security benefits, starting
in January. AARP, the Washington-based organization that represents the
50-and-up crowd, expects an increase of about 2 percent when the annual
cost-of-living hike is announced next Thursday. If that is accurate, it
would be the third-lowest boost in 15 years.
Medicare Bill Hits New York Hospitals the Hardest (October 9, 2003)
The debate in Congress on adding drug coverage to Medicare has largely
obscured a parallel fight over whether the bill should cut or add billions
of dollars in Medicare payments to hospitals, particularly teaching
has far more money at stake in that struggle than any other state.
Depending on how various House and Senate proposals are resolved,
hospitals nationwide could see a net loss of up to $5.4 billion in
Medicare payments over 10 years, compared with 2002 levels, $2.1 billion
of that in
, according to an analysis by the Healthcare Association of New York
State, a hospital lobbying group. Part of that reduction would come from a
cut of roughly 15 percent in payments made only to teaching hospitals,
which are most heavily concentrated in
Ohio: Bipartisan deal to extend Medicare drug benefit (
October 7, 2003
A tentative agreement between congressional Republicans and Democrats
$275 million annually on medicine for seniors enrolled in Medicaid. The
agreement would extend the Medicare drug benefit Congress passed in June.
The nation's governors have lobbied for it over the objections of the Bush
administration. Prescription-drug benefits are the fastest growing part of
the state's overburdened Medicaid budget, rising an average of 18 percent
annually. In 2001, the 222,339 seniors in Medicaid - who made up only 13
percent of Medicaid enrollees - accounted for almost half of
's Medicaid drug costs, according to the Ohio Department of Job &
Medicare Plan Lifts
Premiums for the Affluent (October 6, 2003)
unexpected support from some Democrats, Republican negotiators from the
House and the Senate say they are seriously considering a change in
Medicare that would require elderly people with high incomes to pay higher
premiums than other beneficiaries. The discussions come as the negotiators
step up their efforts to reach agreement by Oct. 17 on a bill to overhaul
Medicare and add prescription drug benefits. The proposal to link premiums
to income raises a philosophical and political question: Should wealthy
people pay more for Medicare?
Struggles With a Stance Over Medicare (
Back in 1995, when a new Republican-controlled Congress
was in a pitched ideological battle with the Democrats over the budget,
Howard Dean was an iconoclastic, budget-balancing governor of
and chairman of the National Governors Association, willing — even eager
— to challenge party orthodoxy on spending. Dr. Dean said, according to
news reports at the time, that he "fully subscribed" to the idea
of substantially reducing the growth rate in Medicare spending and he
praised that element of a Senate Republican budget plan that was
vehemently opposed by Democrats on Capitol Hill. He argued that "we
ought to put Social Security back on the table" in an effort to
balance the federal budget, and he suggested that Congress consider
raising the retirement age.
Medicare cap on therapies OK'd (
September 30, 2003
Seniors on Medicare increasingly are forced to make tough decisions as
their out-of-pocket medical expenses continue to rise. Now they'll face
one more: whether to drive to the nearest hospital for rehabilitative
therapies they might need, pay for it themselves or do without. On Monday,
a federal district court judge in
, turned back a legal attempt by consumer advocates to block a cap on
Medicare reimbursements for speech, occupational and physical therapies.
The federal government now can place a $1,590 annual limit on physical and
speech therapies, with a separate $1,590 annual limit for occupational
therapy, beginning with care received Sept. 1.
Bush Prods Lawmakers to
Step Up Pace of Medicare Talks (
September 26, 2003
President Bush intervened in talks on a Medicare drug bill
today (September 26), trying to galvanize negotiations that have been
slowed by deep disagreements between Republicans from the House and those
from the Senate. After a meeting with lawmakers working on the
legislation, Mr. Bush said, "The sentiment was optimistic." He
said he believed that they could reach agreement on a comprehensive
Medicare bill before Congress adjourns this year. House and Senate
negotiators have set an ambitious schedule, which calls for them to
complete work on the bill by Oct. 17. But some lawmakers say the goal is
unrealistic, since the conferees have scarcely begun to tackle the hardest
US: $400 billion deficit in
pension plan funding (
September 25, 2003
The head of the federal Pension Benefit
Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) raised the specter of a crisis in the
government-insured pension system that could make the savings and loan
bailout of the 1980s pale in comparison. In testimony before Congress
earlier this month (September 4), Steven Kandarian, the federal pension
insurance agency’s executive director, estimated the total underfunding
of pension obligations at a whopping $400 billion at the end of 2002, up
from a previous record $150 billion in 2001. These huge shortfalls result
in large measure from losses on pension funds invested in the stock market
along with record low interest rates. With their focus on the bottom line,
companies have held back making payments to restore depleted pension
2 Health Plans Cut Back on Coverage (September 24, 2003)
Blue Cross of California and Kaiser
Permanente will drop Medicare Plus Choice plan coverage
for more than 7,500 people in Ventura and Santa Clara counties next year
in what the companies described as regrettable but unavoidable decisions.
The change will affect 2,937 Blue Cross members and 3,500 Kaiser members
in Ventura County, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and
Holds the Nation's Health in His Hands (September 22, 2003)
The author reflects his vision on the role of President in the nation’s
health issues. He says that the leadership function of a president is
critically important when it comes to sensitive and complex domestic
policy, just as it is in foreign affairs and national security. The author
also says that it's up to President to crystallize national issues,
especially when deeply held values are involved and when today's needs
must be weighed against future costs. He thinks that if the president
fails to clarify the national agenda, he leaves the door open to political
grandstanding and a special-interest free-for-all — as we're now
experiencing with Medicare.
Debate About Social Security (September 22, 2003)
Lawmakers are trying to bring debate back to the Senate floor, tackling
the nation's most urgent issues with good, old-fashioned oratory. Four
senators faced off Monday night over Social Security. The program's
projected shortfall didn't get funded, the arguments weren't new and
neither side budged. All the senators decided was that the country faces
tough choices in restoring the system's financial health.
Older Adults at Risk (September 16, 2003)
Americans too old to be considered children and too young for Medicare
are particularly vulnerable to gaps in the health insurance system. For
young adults just starting to work and still unsettled in a career,
finding stable -- and affordable -- coverage is the problem. For those
between middle age and retirement, finding any coverage at a time when
they are more likely to suffer from chronic illness and require complex
and expensive care is the challenge.
Retirees Alarmed at Threat of Cuts
in Drug Benefits (September 15, 2003)
As Congress works on legislation to cover
prescription drugs under Medicare, lawmakers have been deluged with
complaints from retirees who fear losing drug benefits they already have
from former employers. Some lawmakers say this issue is emerging as the
most immediate threat to the legislation. Congress is frantically seeking
ways to address the concern, by offering tax credits, subsidies or other
incentives for employers to continue providing drug benefits to retirees.
The tax credits would be available to employers who maintain drug coverage
or supplement what Medicare provides.
HealthSouth Faces Medicare Fraud Investigation (September 11, 2003)
Federal law enforcement officials are investigating possible
Medicare fraud at HealthSouth, the troubled chain of rehabilitation and
surgery centers, after a Texas jury awarded $1.5 million in damages to the
former medical director of a Houston hospital, officials said yesterday.
Violations of federal Medicare regulations, if proved, could be punished
by fines and even loss of Medicare accreditation. Government investigators
said they were looking for patterns of wrongdoing in the extensive system
of HealthSouth hospitals and centers after obtaining admissions of
fraudulent behavior by former executives at the company's headquarters in
Medicare: A political battle,
then and now (September 9, 2003)
Medicare, which covers some 40 million Americans, was signed into law by
President Lyndon B. Johnson and culminated decades of partisan battles
over whether there should be a national health insurance program. Not only
are the program's basic guarantees and structure very similar today to
what was passed 38 years ago, the current debate over how to reform and
update what many consider an obsolete social program to prepare for the
retirement of millions of baby boomers also calls forth many of the same
basic partisan arguments that made its enactment such a difficult and
lengthy process. Now, approaching autumn 2003, after years of failed
legislation and negotiation, a congressional conference committee is
poised to craft a final bill that could partially privatize Medicare a
concession to the Republicans and add a prescription drug benefit a
long-time goal of Democrats and an expansion some say is the largest in
Fewer People on Medicare Are Dropped by
H.M.O.'s, (September 9, 2003)
The exodus of health maintenance organizations from Medicare, a
trend that has alarmed elderly people and members of Congress since 1999,
will slow to a trickle next year, the industry said today. Karen M.
Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans, the lobby
for H.M.O.'s and other private plans, said they would drop 39,000 Medicare
beneficiaries next year. By contrast, health plans dropped 2.4 million
beneficiaries from 1999 to 2003. Some H.M.O.'s have pulled out of
Medicare, while others have curtailed their participation by withdrawing
from specific counties.
Cross to leave Medicare HMO area (September 9, 2003)
Georgia's largest health insurer is pulling out of the Medicare HMO
business, affecting 19,000 metro Atlanta seniors.Blue Cross and Blue
Shield of Georgia on Monday blamed inadequate reimbursements from the
federal government for its withdrawal from the Medicare program.The 19,000
members will have the option of joining the remaining HMO serving
Georgians in Medicare -- Kaiser Permanente -- or joining the traditional
fee-for-service Medicare program. Blue Cross said its Medicare services
will continue until Jan. 1.
pension time bomb may explode, or perhaps it's just a dud (September 08,
There is enough gloom pervading the topic of retirement funding
without considering what impact the market's performance over the next few
years will have on pension plans, Individual Retirement Accounts and
401(k) portfolios. Recent trends have been encouraging. Through Friday,
the Standard & Poor's 500 is up 16 percent this year. But there are
market pundits warning of lean years on the horizon. If they are on the
money, problems companies already are experiencing funding their pension
plans will be compounded. Individuals who curtailed their retirement
savings in recent years will be caught in the same squeeze.
woo teachers to shun retirement, stay on job (September 08, 2003)
CORAL SPRINGS - As last school year wound down, Fran Tankovich dreaded the
thought that she would no longer be teaching her high school art students,
who ranged from natural talents to diamonds in the rough. At 60, she faced
mandatory retirement because she had signed up for a deferred retirement
program five years ago. At the time she enrolled, it meant more than
$100,000 in extra pension money, an offer she called "too good to
refuse." But Florida lawmakers this year gave Tankovich and hundreds
of other teachers facing the same situation another chance to remain in
the classroom and keep their extra retirement benefits.
worsens for teachers’ retirement plan (September 8, 2003)
Legislators learned Sunday that the state Teachers’
Retirement System needs even more money than they thought to meet its
obligations. Harry Mandel, actuary for the state Consolidated Public
Retirement Board, told a legislative interim committee that the plan’s
unfunded liability is actually $253.6 million larger than had been
of Pensions Could Exceed $80 Billion (September 5, 2003)
Pension underfunding at troubled U.S. companies has doubled this fiscal
year and could exceed $80 billion, with airlines accounting for nearly a
third of the shortfall, the government said Thursday. The alarming trend
further threatens the health of Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the agency
that insures retirement plans for 44 million workers and retirees. After
recent mammoth bailouts of pension plans, particularly those of several
large retailers and steelmakers, the agency has seen its own deficit
balloon by $2 billion in the last year to a record $5.7 billion.
Florida retirees gather in D.C. to urge Medicare bills’ defeat
(September 5, 2003)
Long-sought legislation to provide prescription drug coverage under
Medicare is being attacked from the left and the right as Congress gets
back to work this week, jeopardizing tenuous attempts to reach a
compromise bill that will satisfy senior citizens.
Hundreds of retired union workers rallied on Capitol Hill in the rain on
Thursday and then lobbied members of Congress to reject bills passed by
the House and Senate. They strenuously argued that both bills are a bad
deal for seniors and worse than nothing.
Says Its Redding Hospital May Be Barred From Medicare (September 5, 2003)
government's move comes after the firm settled allegations that doctors
there performed unnecessary surgeries. Tenet Healthcare
Corp. said Thursday that its Redding Medical Center faced
an exclusion from Medicare and other federal health programs, which would
result in the loss of nearly half of the hospital's net patient revenue.
Redding Medical, where two doctors have been accused of performing
unnecessary heart surgeries, could become the first hospital not convicted
of a crime to be barred from the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Some Successful Models Ignored
as Congress Works on Drug Bill "The legislation pending in Congress does more to deform than to
reform Medicare," said Dr. Paul M. Ellwood, a noted health policy
analyst who was an early proponent of managed care. "Instead of
creating a system of readily understandable choices based on cost and
quality, Congress is writing legislation that will increase the complexity
of Medicare, so it will be more difficult for seniors to navigate."
Golden Years, on $678 a
Month (September 3, 2003)
The well-being of the elderly has been improving steadily for decades.
The current generation of older Americans is living longer, feeling
better, being more active and earning more money. Recent stock market
losses and near-invisible interest rates have darkened the picture for
many elderly, even forcing some to return to work. Still, the 2000 census
shows that over the last decade, the poverty rate among those 65 and older
fell to 10.2 percent from 12.7 percent. But life for New York's elderly
population is worsening. International Longevity Center staff, Victor
Rodwin, who directs the center's World Cities Project, summed up its
findings: "The message is that as the number of older people in the
country in poverty has gone down, in New York City it has gone up."
announces elderly health care initiative (September 3, 2003)
Carolina senior citizens and disabled residents soon will have more choice
in deciding how their Medicaid money can be spent. Gov. Mark Sanford
announced the pilot program "S.C. Choice" on a visit to a
Spartanburg nursing home Wednesday. Under the program, people getting
benefits from the Department of Health and Human Services' Community
Long-term Care Program now can use their Medicaid money in alternate ways.
and confusion reign as Congress moves to finalize a historic change to
Medicare (September 3, 2003)
Like many of her friends, 71-year-old Claire Krulik has carefully
calculated what she spends on prescription medicines and how much help she
can expect if Congress agrees to add drug coverage to Medicare. Her stark
conclusion: She would be better off without either of the dueling plans
facing the House of Representatives and Senate this fall. Both include a
complicated array of premiums, deductibles, co-payments and gaps in
coverage. Krulik, who takes medicines for diabetes, high blood pressure,
asthma and other ailments, gets her drugs from Canada, where they cost up
to 50% less. ''For me, it wouldn't be worthwhile,'' she says of the
potentially historic drug-benefit legislation moving through Congress.
''I'd still be better off getting my medications from Canada.''
worry Medicare prescription drug benefit will not cut costs (September 3,
three-quarters of the elderly worry they will still pay too much for
prescription drugs even if Congress enacts new Medicare benefits, says a
poll that shows a majority of seniors want Congress to enact a
prescription drug benefit anyway.
The poll, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School
of Public Health, showed 76 percent of the elderly are concerned they will
pay too much for prescription drugs if the Medicare program is revamped to
add the benefit, with 52 percent "very worried" their expenses
will remain too high.
the Drug Dilemma (August 22, 2003)
The House and Senate are struggling over what to do about the cost
of pharmaceuticals under Medicare. Whatever the outcome -- whether, for
example, consumers are allowed to import drugs from Canada or anywhere
else, and whether government should negotiate with manufacturers over drug
prices -- it will be no more than a short-term solution.
Drug maker touts discount plan
(August 22, 2003)
Representatives of the country's largest prescription-drug maker
barnstormed Iowa Thursday, urging senior citizens to apply for big
discounts on popular medicines. Pfizer's "Share Card" offers
most of the company's brands for $15 per month to Medicare recipients with
relatively low incomes. Company Vice President Forest Harper said 8,300
Iowans have signed up since the program started last year. The company has
given out 60,000 prescriptions worth $4.2 million to those people.
"But you know what? It's not enough," Harper said.
scramble to defray drug costs (August 21, 2003)
The deadline for signing up for Prescription Advantage is the
end of August, with a few exceptions for those between ages 65 and 66, and
those who have recently moved to Massachusetts, involuntarily lost their
health coverage or recently become ineligible for Medicaid. While the
state's fiscal crisis, and the tugs of war that went on in the State House
over the last few months, almost left without drug coverage, a group of
seniors who had switched to less expensive health insurance in hopes of
supplementing it with Prescription Advantage, many were never aware of how
endangered the program was.
more to fix pensions (August 21, 2003)
A rising stock market is improving the health of private pension plans.
And though it may seem counterintuitive, a recent rise in interest rates
is helping, too. That's a relief, but it doesn't fix everything wrong with
the nation's private pension system. Major worries remain for many
private-sector employees. So Congress must make sure pension rules protect
people who are counting on what they have earned for a secure retirement.
And employees must stay informed so they know how proposed changes might
N.J. seeks adviser on how
to invest its pension funds (August 21, 2003)
The state Treasury Department is seeking to hire a consultant for New
Jersey's ailing pension funds, a move that drew fire from critics who
feared that it would be the first step toward privatizing the fund's
management. The request for proposals, issued to 24 firms across the
country on Wednesday, calls for a consultant who would offer advice on how
to invest the funds' assets.
pension fund back on track (August
The fund, which supports 136,000 retired teachers, still fell short of its
performance target, according to information the fund released yesterday.
The $42 billion Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS)
gained 2.7 percent on its investments during the 12 months ended June 30
as rising stock values in the second quarter made up for losses that the
fund sustained during the second half of last year.
Kempthorne Focuses on Long-Term Care (August 18,
Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said Tuesday that as leader of the
National Governors Association he will emphasize long-term care - a
problem for state budgets, the country's aging population and his own
parents. Kempthorne's 86-year-old mother had a stroke five years ago and
is being cared for by his 87-year-old father. But macular degeneration has
taken his father's sight, so he can't drive or cook and has hired a
caretaker to help them live together at home.
Prescription Drugs Now, Day of
Reckoning Later (August 18, 2003)
President Bush and Congress have agreed to spend $400 billion on
prescription drugs for the elderly over 10 years. But they rarely address
a basic question: Where does the money come from? It will be borrowed from
the public, officials say. In practice, economists say, workers of the
future — children and grandchildren of today's Medicare beneficiaries
— will have to pay much of the cost through higher taxes.
Report on Medicare Legislation Raises
Concern on Costs (August 11, 2003)
A report released on August 11, raises questions about the ability
of private health plans to protect the elderly from the high costs of
medical care under Medicare legislation proposed by Congress.The Senate
and House are working to overhaul Medicare, the federal health insurance
program for the elderly and the disabled, as a way to cover prescription
drugs for the 40 million Americans now under the program. The report also
examines the experience of people who have chosen to receive Medicare
coverage through preferred provider plans, known as P.P.O.'s, which allow
them to go outside a fixed provider network to see a doctor or hospital of
Flow from pension funds likely to slow (August
Pension funds are a major source of venture capital,
pumping money into private equity through defined-benefit plans, which
leave investing to the employer. But such pension plans are on the wane,
losing out to 401(k) plans. These plans mean more cash flow to stocks and
bonds, rather than venture capital. The reason: 401(k)s and other plans
that allow individuals to invest aren't suited to the long-term strategies
of venture capital. Stay tuned!
enrollees face continued cost increases in 2003, costs have doubled since
1999 (August 11, 2003)
Providing evidence of eroding benefits in the Medicare+Choice managed care
program, a new Commonwealth Fund report finds that enrollees' average
annual plan premiums and other out-of-pocket costs rose ten percent in
2003 to $1,964, more than double what they were in 1999.The report,
Average Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs for Medicare+Choice Enrollees
Increase Ten Percent in 2003, also reveals that out-of-pocket spending for
enrollees in Medicare PPO (preferred provider organization) demonstration
plans is nearly 50 percent higher, on average, than costs for
Protecting Pensions (August
For 44 million Americans, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation is as
important to their retirement as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
is to their savings account. But there's disturbing news: The
General Accounting Office, Congress's investigating arm, recently put the
PBGC - the agency that insures defined-benefit pensions - on its
"high risk" list of government programs. Remember the
savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s? Congress spent about $124 billion in
taxpayer money reimbursing savers whose S&Ls went under,
"bankrupting" the federal insurer, the FSLIC.
on Medicare drug card (August 6, 2003)
With the 2004 election just around the corner, the Bush
administration is aiming to have a temporary discount drug card program in
place by April 1. Medicare won't pick up the tab for medications until
2006 as part of a broader reform effort that's still on the table. Lawmakers
are starting to agree on a way to provide seniors with prescription drug
cards to bridge the gap until a permanent Medicare drug benefit arrives,
Congressional negotiators said.
Drugs Face Funds Cut in a Bush Plan (August 6, 2003)
The Bush administration will soon propose significant cuts in
Medicare payments for cancer drugs, based on new data suggesting that the
government pays far more than the market price for such medicines,
administration officials said today. They would also propose a modest
increase in payments to doctors who give the drugs to patients in their
offices. But, government documents show, the increased payments for
medical services would be dwarfed by the cuts in payments to doctors for
the drugs they buy.
pensions face loss of billions (August 5, 2003)
State taxpayers are having to spend billions of
dollars to prop up public pension plans hit hard by stock-market losses,
which squeezes state budgets at a time when tax collections are growing
slowly. States will contribute $9.6 billion to the nation's 12
biggest state pension plans this year, a USA TODAY survey found. That's a
35% increase in the past two years, but it is still billions of dollars
less than what is needed to fund retirement benefits guaranteed to public
New Rules Urged to Avert Looming
Pension Crisis (July 28, 2003)
Top government officials have begun a calibrated campaign to bring
attention to corporate pension plans, which they say may be on a road to
collapse. But underneath their measured words are proposals that could
fundamentally change the $1.6 trillion industry, altering the way pension
money is set aside and invested. Treasury officials say they think that
this approach would put benefits at risk, particularly at companies with
older workers who will be claiming their pensions soon. "The fact of
the matter is that more money is needed in those plans, to ensure that
older workers receive the benefits they have earned through decades of
hard work," said Peter R. Fisher, under secretary for domestic
finance, in testimony to a House subcommittee panel earlier this month.
Retirement blues (July 28, 2003)
As fears grow that America’s pensions rescue fund may itself need
rescuing, Britain’s main business organisation predicts that
pension-fund deficits will damage economic growth for several years. America’s
Congress and Treasury are looking at various proposals to ease the
pensions crisis, such as raising the limits for tax deductions on pension
contributions. This would encourage firms to build bigger pension
surpluses while investment returns are good, so they have a bigger cushion
when the markets turn bad.
Dingell in middle of Medicare overhaul (July 28, 2003)
Nearly 40 years after he witnessed
the creation of Medicare, U.S. Rep. John Dingell is among 17 people who
must somehow agree on a plan to expand it -- a plan that will satisfy
liberals and conservatives and assist cash-strapped seniors with
escalating prescription drug costs. Before the committee are two bills --
one 700 pages long, the other 1,000 pages -- both purporting to offer the
best plan for senior citizens seeking prescription drug relief and the
ability to shore up Medicare's finances. Will we get a bill?
to Poor Pose a Hurdle to Compromise on Medicare Bill (July 21, 2003)
The House and the Senate have huge differences over how to treat poor
people in legislation adding prescription drugs to Medicare. Ronald F.
Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a consumer group, said:
"The subsidies for low-income seniors are vastly superior in the
Senate bill. They truly help make drugs affordable. The House bill
provides much less assistance to low-income people."
Law May Add Adult
Day Care to Medicare (July 20, 2003)
State Medicaid programs pick up the day-care tab for low-income people
in some parts of the country, while others generally pay for the service
themselves. But legislation pending in Congress would add Medicare to the
mix, allowing beneficiaries eligible for the program's homebound coverage
to use that benefit instead for day care.
House Bill Would Boost Retirement Savings
(July 18, 2001)
A House committee on
Friday approved a $50 billion pension bill that would allow Americans to
put more tax-deferred income into personal retirement accounts, but only
after the Republican chairman summoned police in the midst of a Democratic
boycott and protests over the way the measure was being handled.
Congress Let Accounting Fiction Obscure Pension Reality? (July 18, 2003)
What should be done when an important sector of the
American economy has severe problems? The easy answer is to avoid
admitting the problems and hope that time will make everything better.
That is how the government dealt with the early days of the savings and
loan crisis two decades ago. Which brings us to the corporate pension
States May Benefit, as Well, if Medicare
Drug Bill Passes (July 18, 2003)
The states hope to be among the big winners if Congress passes
a Medicare drug benefit, allowing them to shift expenses from
state-financed programs onto the new federal program. The windfall could
be billions of dollars a year, or it could be far less, depending on how
differences between the Senate and House versions of the Medicare bill are
hashed out in a conference committee. Stay tuned!
firefighters earn those pensions (July 18, 2003)
people do not realize that firefighters and police officers in Portland
are not covered by the Public Employees Retirement System.
In over a half-century, there has never been a time when the general
fund of the city was even close to having to pay retirement and disability
costs for Portland's firefighters and police officers. What are the
possibilities to change the situation?
Criticize Proposed Pension Rules (July 18, 2003)
As corporate America struggles with rising pension costs and liabilities,
a group representing senior corporate executives is lobbying against a
plan to force companies to give more information about their pension
plans. Current efforts to increase pension disclosure would simply result
in further confusion on an already complex subject.
program blasted (July 18, 2003)
employees launched a new computerized system last month, its 3 million
customers were promised quick access to the kind of detailed financial
information. Workers at the National Finance Center in New Orleans, which
administers the system for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board
in Washington, say the program isn't working and they are besieged with
complaints. They say they often have to enter data as many as 10 times
before the system will accept it. The House Government Reform Committee is
investigating and plans hearings on the problem Thursday.
out nursing homes, state board says (July 17, 2003)
The traditional nursing home - where frail, but not necessarily
seriously ill residents live for years under the watchful eyes of floor
nurses and their assistants - should be phased out, a state board has told
Gov. Jim Doyle and state lawmakers. That's because ever-tightening
government budgets coupled with an array of market forces make it fiscally
untenable to support the traditional nursing home, he and others say.
Who will care for older, frail older persons?
balks at drug plan Stance could derail Medicare benefit (July 17, 2003)
Association of Retired Persons (AARP), America's largest organization of
seniors, warned Congress this week that separate versions of the
legislation passed by the Senate and the House offer inadequate benefits
and could do more harm than good. It threatened to oppose a final version
unless improvements are made.
Begin on Resolving Differences in House and Senate Drug Benefit Plans
(July 16, 2003)
along ideological as well as political lines, senior lawmakers from the
House and Senate pledged their best efforts to find common ground on July
15 as they opened talks over Medicare prescription drug and modernization
legislation. The hard work of compromise began on July 16, as lawmakers
try to mesh different bills passed by the House and Senate, each designed
to achieve twin objectives.
Bills Have Pitfalls For Poor (July 16, 2003)
low-income subsidies are less generous in the House Medicare plan,
low-income elderly Americans would pay substantially more out of pocket,
sometimes even thousands of dollars a year, under the House plan than
under the Senate measure. But experts find the Senate version is flawed as
well. It would exclude very low-income Medicare beneficiaries from
prescription drug coverage under the federal health program for the
Drug-Benefit Plan Is Mixed Bag for the Elderly (July 14, 2003)
potential beneficiaries of Medicare bill say proposed coverage is too
skimpy. Others find it too
confusing. Although many of Medicare's 40 million elderly and disabled
beneficiaries would get significant new help paying for medicine, people
who don't spend much on drugs would have to decide whether the policies
are worth the monthly cost. For some other retirees, their former
employers may drop drug coverage once Medicare offers it and they may end
up with less coverage than they have today.
for Politics (July 14, 2003)
$400 billion Medicare prescription drug bill, advertised as a way to help
elderly Americans pay for their medicine, has become a magnet for dozens
of unrelated provisions benefiting hospitals, doctors, medical equipment
companies and an array of other health care interests. Lobbyists are
pursuing special provisions to get a part of the biggest health measure in
years. Some provisions would help specific companies, industries and
Drug Coverage for Medicare Beneficiaries: A Side-by-Side Comparison of
Selected Proposals (July 10, 2003)
Members of Congress working to reconcile differences between the Medicare
prescription drug proposals recently passed by the House and Senate, the
Kaiser Family Foundation released an updated version of Prescription Drug
Coverage for Medicare Beneficiaries:
A Side-by-Side Comparison of S. 1 and H.R. 1. This comparison
describes the two bills, including information on premiums, deductibles,
and cost-sharing, as well as provisions on assistance for low-income
enrollees. This updated
version of the document builds on the previous one by including additional
information on payments to drug plan sponsors and the specifics of the
premium support provisions in H.R. 1.
Using Its Leverage in Medicare Debate (July 9, 2003)
To design a Medicare plan that
will work means getting the participation of health insurance companies,
managed-care plans and drug-benefit managers. This gives the industry
tremendous leverage and lawmakers working for compromise must weigh
private sector's demands against the needs of the elderly and disabled.
Medicare Bill Hurdle: Insurance Subsidies (July 8,
are facing a key obstacle in reconciling the House and the Senate Medicare
bills. The House's version of the legislation requires federal subsidies
to Medicare recipients who buy private health insurance policies that
include drug coverage. The Senate version would provide drug benefits
without such benefits. Negotiators must resolve the difference before the
bill can be passed to President Bush to be signed into law.
Senate Democrats Release Letter to President Bush
(July 8, 2003)
Senate Democrats on July 8
released a letter to President Bush and Senate Conferees on the
prescription drug bill laying out the important issues that need to be
addressed in the Conference Committee. The letter calls for careful
consideration to maintain bipartisan support for the legislation. 37
Senators have signed the letter.
Plans Improve Federal Workers' Drug Benefits (July 8,
As the House and Senate are
trying to reconcile their different versions of Medicare legislation, the
House starts to consider a bill to ensure civilian federal retirees
prescription drug benefits better than Medicare recipients. The House is
expected to pass the legislation this week.
Loopholes let well-off seniors skirt Medicaid
rules (July 7, 2003)
States are planning to cut spending on Medicaid for the poor or
immigrants. Although targeting Medicaid makes sense for cash-strapped
States to reduce fiscal deficits, many states are cutting aid only to the
poor while sparing a huge Medicaid benefit enjoyed by middle- and
upper-income families: nursing-home stays. These households are taking
advantage of loopholes in the law to hide elderly relatives' wealth so the
seniors can qualify for costly long-term care at public expense. The
author suggests that “a fairer way to limit Medicaid costs would be to
curb services for those best able to afford them”.
Report Criticizes Federal Oversight of State
Medicaid (July 7, 2003)
The General Accounting Office
investigators examined 15 Medicaid waivers, states that are exempted from
some federal regulations and give them broad discretion to decide who gets
what services, and found problems with the quality of care in 11 of the
programs. In many cases, Medicaid beneficiaries simply did not receive the
services they were supposed to receive.
Employers Seek to Shift Costs of Drugs to U.S.
(July 2, 2003)
Last week’s Medicare bills
will shift some of the soaring drug costs from the country’s largest
employers to the federal government by creating Medicare-subsidized
managed care organizations that offered drug benefits and subsidies for
employers that maintained their drug coverage.
Companies are lobbying hard to make sure that those gains survive
in the final version of the law. Some critics are attacking the Medicare
bills as corporate welfare.
bill would require co-pays for seniors' lab tests (July 2, 2003)
bills passed by the Senate last week might trim a benefit that could cost seniors billions
of dollars. The bill has a provision requiring Medicare patients to pay 20
percent of the costs of their clinical lab work, such as blood tests and
urinalysis. Seniors would have to start paying in January. Some physicians
predicted many of their patients would be unable to pay the new fees and
wouldn't get the tests they need.
Pension Provider Overwhelmed (July 2, 2003)
the nation's pension corporate system is under severe stress, the Pension
Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), the federal agency charged with ensuring
that workers from bankrupt companies get their pensions, is facing a
growing workload. The PBGC serves as financial trustee for nearly 1
million individual pensioners and pays out $2.5 billion a year. It expects
more customers by next year and has already inherited more than 100,000
new customers in the past six months. Some people are disappointed by
PBGC’s administrative delays and rules that limit their pensions.
Private Health Insurers Begin Lobbying for Changes
in Medicare Drug Legislation (July 1, 2003)
The private health insurance
industry is lobbying Congress to make major changes to the Medicare bills
passed last week. They said few private plans would enter the Medicare
market without increased subsidies and more stability. They denounced the
proposed limit on the number of private plans. Under the proposed
legislation, Medicare would sign contracts with up to three preferred
provider plans in each region of the country.
Prescription Drug Plan Faces Tests (June 30, 2003)
The House and Senate passed
bills on June 27, 2003 to add a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare. But
it is far from certain the plan would work, even if the House and the
Senate are able to resolve differences between their bills. Some
companies, looking for their last chance to affect the legislation, say
neither version will offer businesses enough profit to attract interest.
Experts say “the willingness of insurers to take part remains an open
Drug-benefit plans greeted warily: Many seniors
voice suspicion, confusion about the proposals (June 27, 2003)
The Senate and House both
passed the Medicare bill to offer prescription-drug coverage to seniors on
June 27. But interviews with seniors around the country show many of them
are confused and suspicious about the bill, which would not take effect
until 2006. Some seniors say “they're better off sticking with
employer-sponsored plans or buying cheaper drugs over the Internet or from
Canada”. Still others are worried being “pushed into private health
plans in exchange for defraying their drug costs, even though the program
would be voluntary”.
and Senate Pass Measures for Broad Overhaul of Medicare (June 27, 2003)
a severe test of President Bush's influence on Capitol Hill,
Congress early today approved landmark legislation that would overhaul
Medicare and expand its benefits to include prescription drug coverage and
give private health plans a larger role in the program. The
Senate passed its bill by 76 to 21. The House approved its version by the
narrowest of margins, 216 to 215. The two bills differ in some key areas,
but their passage represents a major step toward enactment of the most
far-reaching changes in the health-care program for the elderly since it
was established in 1965.
Rebuffs Bid to Close a Gap in Medicare Drug Coverage (June 25, 2003)
Senate turned back Democratic efforts to expand a proposed prescription
drug benefit for elderly people with high drug cost and neared agreement
on the divisive issue of how far to go in encouraging private health plans
to provide Medicare coverage. Both developments helped clear the way for
Senate approval later this week of the first major overhaul of Medicare
since it was created four decades ago.
in private Medicare+Choice plans provide warnings for Medicare debate
(June 25, 2003)
Congress is debating Medicare bills to encourage more use of private
insurance plans, the article lists six lessons that legislators should
learn from the six-year-Medicare+Choice program, Medicare's managed care
alternative to its traditional fee-for-service program. According to the
article, many Medicare+Choice enrollees have been faced with a limited
choice of plans in their area, instability in provider participation
compared with fee-for-service Medicare, significantly increased
out-of-pocket costs, and a confusing, complicated benefit structure.
Pushes for Expanded Private Role in Medicare (June 24, 2003)
Bush pressured Congress to pass a Medicare drug bill this week, even as
conservatives in his own party criticized the legislation and pushed for
changes. For the second consecutive week, the Senate debated amendments to
the legislation, which would offer new prescription drug benefits to 40
million elderly and disabled Americans on Medicare, at a cost of $400
billion in the next 10 years.
putting $12 billion more into Medicare bill (June 24, 2003)
Medicare bill came in below its $400 billion 10-year budget, giving
lawmakers an extra $12 billion to use. The lead sponsor of the Senate
Medicare prescription drug bill said he hoped to use at least half of the
$12 billion available to encourage more health plans to participate. One
possibility, not yet finalized, is to put half the money into encouraging
employers to keep providing health coverage to retirees and put the other
half into encouraging more Preferred Provider Organizations, or PPOs, to
venture into Medicare.
Senate Backs Wider Importing of Canada Prescription
Drugs (June 24, 2003)
voted 62-28 to allow licensed pharmacists and drug distributors to bring
in medications from Canada, where they often are less expensive. The
amendment, attached to broader Medicare bill, would allow people around
the country to purchase Canadian products in their local stores.
Currently, only drug makers and their affiliates can legally import
Opposes House Proposal for Medicare and Prescription Drug Bills (June 23,
Council on the Aging prefers the Senate Medicare and prescription drug
bill. It opposes the House proposals because of the weaker low-income
protections, possible premium increase, 48 percent of beneficiaries
without coverage, and the dangerous precedent of cutting protections based
Care: Federal Oversight of Growing Medicaid Home and Community-Based
Waivers should Be Strengthened (June 20, 2003)
last decade, states have increased their support for long-term care
services in individuals’ home or in other community-based settings –
such as an alternative to care in nursing homes and other institutions.
For many vulnerable elderly and nonelderly individuals with physical,
developmental, or cognitive disabilities, these alternative settings and
services are seen as preferable to institutional care. Most state funding
of long-term care is through Medicaid, the federal-state health care
program for certain low-income individuals. Medicaid home and
community-based services (HCBS) waivers, authorized under section 1915 (c)
of the Social Security Act, are the primary means by which states provide
noninstitutional long-term care.
Fears Medicare Changes Could Cut Drug Coverage for Retirees (June 20,
National Association of Retired Federal Employees announced it opposes
legislation that would revamp the Medicare program, because $400 billion
would not be enough to create a Medicare drug benefit equivalent to the
coverage offered under most plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefits
Program. Under the House and Senate Medicare bills, 40 million Medicare
recipients will receive $400 billion worth federal subsidies for
prescription drugs over 10 years.
cool to U.S. Congress's Medicare proposals (June 19, 2003)
the House and Senate Medicare bills seek to encourage beneficiaries to
join private plans for health care services, the public prefers the
government-run program to private plans. Two polls suggest that “many
Americans are not ready to embrace the plans being considered by
Congress.” Older persons
object to the high prices of drugs that fuel pharmaceutical profits.
If the private drug plans win out, there will be no incentive to
lower the cost of drugs. The rich get richer!
Starts on Medicare and Coverage for Drugs (June 17, 2003)
For the first
time in year, lawmakers were debating a Medicare drug bill considered to
have a good chance of passage. As the Senate yesterday began this
“historic debate” on legislation to add prescription drug benefits to
Medicare, liberals and conservatives immediately signaled that they would
seek changes in the bill. The bill would allocate $400 billion drug
benefits over 10 years and include private insurance plans in the program.
CalPERS weighs hefty HMO hikes (June 17, 2003)
members may face an 18.4 percent increase in the HMO premium if CalPERS’
health committee don’t agree to raise fees for medication today.
The proposed rate increase signals U.S. employers a continuous surge in
medical costs next year.
population makes this deficit scarier: Digging out will be harder as
Medicare, Social Security pressures mount (June 16, 2003)
beginning to look a lot like the 1980s with rising deficits, huge tax
cuts, and soaring spending, there’s one big difference: the baby boomers
are aging. Views differ among economists but it is certain that the vast
tax cuts for the wealthy meant that surpluses could not be used for
immediate or distant social needs to benefit all Americans.
to Fight Grassley-Baucus Medicare Bill at Grassroots (June 13, 2003)
the Senate Finance Committee approved the Grassley-Baucus Medicare bill on
June 12, 2003, the Alliance for Retired Americans has launched a massive
grassroots campaign to defeat it. The Alliance will provide its groups
around the country with flyers, talking points and fact sheets to spread
the word that the bill will only exacerbate the prescription drug crisis
facing older Americans. It has also established a toll-free number that
seniors may use to call their Senators to oppose the Medicare bill.
Urges Prescription Drug Plan for Elderly Americans (June 12, 2003)
Bush pushes for Medicare reform in his speech in Chicago yesterday. He
said there is a growing consensus in both houses of Congress and both
political parties that senior citizens need more choices and better health
care benefits. He challenged lawmakers to send him a bill to reform the
government's health plan for seniors and the disabled by the July 4
Confidence, Along With Drug Benefits, to Medicare (June 11, 2003)
yesterday set forth details of their proposal for Medicare reform, making
the drug benefits slightly more generous than they had originally planned.
Under the bill, outpatient drug benefits would become available in 2006.
Will Accept Identical Benefits on Medicare Drugs (June 10, 2003)
administration today accepted equal prescription drug benefits for people
in the traditional Medicare program and those who join private health
plans. The administration originally insisted on more generous drug
benefits for enrollees in private plans. The move is the
administration’s compromise with a Senate plan to give the same Medicare
drug benefits to everybody.
Deal Faces Dual Critiques (June 9, 2003)
Senate leaders reached agreement to provide prescription-drug benefits
under Medicare, disagreements still remain over the extent of the drug
benefit and cost. The bill is facing dual critics: conservatives say
benefit isn’t generous enough while liberals see the coverage as too
Debate Focuses on Merits of Private Plans (June 9, 2003)
issue of the Congress debate over prescription drug benefits for the
elderly is “whether private health plans can deliver better care at
lower cost” than Medicare. Republicans maintain that Medicare is
obsolete and antiquated, while liberal Democrats point out that
Republicans are trying to “unravel the one piece of universal health
insurance we have in this country."
Announces Updated Rates For Long Term Care Hospitals (June 3, 2003)
rule for the Long-Term Care Hospital (LTCH) Prospective Payment System
(PPS) annual payment rate updates and policy changes [CMS-1472-F] went on
display at the Office of the Federal Register on Friday, May 30, 2003.
This final rule will be published in the Federal Register on Friday, June
6, 2003. This final rule discusses the change to the annual LTCH PPS rate
update cycle to July 1st (from October 1st), and includes payment amounts
and factors that are effective for July 1, 2003.
Finalizing Proposal to Revamp Medicaid (June 3, 2003)
governors are nearly reaching an agreement on a plan that would
fundamentally change Medicaid. The draft plan, with considerable support
among Republican and Democratic governors, is designed to revamp the
country’s largest public insurance program. The plan will hand states
vast new powers to set health benefits for the poor. Some congressional
Democrats and health care groups oppose the plan, which may go to Bush the
first week in June.
GOP looking at new Medicare drug plan with $400 annual deductible (June
Republicans are considering a new Medicare option that seniors receive
benefits through a Preferred Provider Organization under Medicare. The
plan will provide preventive benefits, prescription drug coverage and
protection against catastrophic health care expenses. Medicare recipients
will have a $400 annual deductible and pay another $400 each time they are
Make Case For NIS Tax Breaks (June 2, 2003)
Association of Retired Persons Inc. (BARP) submitted to the government
proposals to exempt from tax all pensions paid by the National Insurance
Scheme. BARP’s proposals, first submitted to Government in 1999, were
submitted to the political parties on April 3.
Eyes New Medicare Drug Legislation (June 2, 2003)
Bush and the Congress launch intensive campaign this week to enact
Medicare prescription drug legislation. Bush and GOP leaders put the issue
high on the legislative agenda. However, officials and lawmakers recognize
that tremendous obstacles exist to have the bill pass in the Congress.
Drug Coverage for Medicare Beneficiaries: A Side-by-Side Comparison of
Selected Proposals (June 2003)
his document, prepared by Health Policy Alternatives, Inc.,
provides a side-by-side comparison of two leading proposals to provide
outpatient prescription drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries: H.R.
2473, The Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2003 (as
reported on June 17, 2003), and S. 1, The Prescription Drug and Medicare
Improvement Act of 2003 (as reported on June 13, 2003). This document
summarizes the key provisions of these proposals as part of the
Foundation’s continuing effort to track the Medicare prescription drug
debate. This side-by-side will be updated in the near future to reflect
key developments in this debate.
Also click on
Drug Benefit Calculator to calculate your Medicare benefits.
Social Security Be There For You?': How Americans Perceive Their Benefits
Americans may be uncertain of
their future Social Security benefits for several reasons, including
uncertainty about their future labor earnings, the formula now determining
Social Security benefits, and the future structure of the Social Security
system. To learn how Americans perceive their benefits, researchers
elicited Social Security expectations from respondents to the Survey of
Economic Expectations. They have also performed a more intensive
face-to-face survey on a small sample of respondents.
Prescription Drugs Through Private Drug-Only Plans: A Discussion with
Actuaries (June 2003)
to the current debate over Medicare prescription drug coverage is the role
of private insurance plans in providing drug benefits to Medicare
beneficiaries. This report offers views from health actuaries
knowledgeable about the Medicare program and the prescription drug debate
on key issues that emerge for potential plan sponsors, such as insurers
and PBMs, in providing prescription drug benefits to Medicare
beneficiaries through private, drug-only plans.
and Prescription Drug Spending Chartpack (June 2003)
chartpack provides 2003 and 2006 estimates of total and out-of-pocket
prescription drug spending by Medicare beneficiaries. The data and
analysis for this chartpack, prepared by Actuarial Research Corporation,
assume no change in current law.
Medicare Tomorrow: The Report of The Century
Foundation Task Force on Medicare Reform
examines recent changes to Medicare and proposed reforms to the program,
with an emphasis on how they may affect Medicare beneficiaries and their
families. It puts forth a set of principles that should be used as the
basis for any substantial reforms to Medicare. The report suggests that
policymakers ought to focus on what a well-designed Medicare program
should look like rather than dwelling primarily on the program’s
potential financing difficulties. The volume also includes background
papers on competition-based reforms to Medicare, written by Lisa Potetz;
and on supplemental and employer-sponsored insurance, written by Thomas
Rice. A summary of the report is available at the following link.
Approaches to Medicare Reform (June 2003)
outlines several approaches to health plan competition that have helped to
shape the current debate. These are the theoretical approaches known as
"managed competition" and "defined contribution" and
the existing models of plan competition found in the Federal Employees
Health Benefits Program and in Medicare+Choice.
for medical value: A better outpatient prescription drug benefit for
Medicare (June 2003)
A number of
proposals for including an outpatient prescription drug benefit in
Medicare are currently under consideration in Washington. Yet, while the
question of what is covered must be at the heart of a successful drug
benefit, it is an afterthought in most existing proposals. This issue
brief proposes a different standard for the design of a Medicare benefit:
the medical and therapeutic value of the medications covered.
Evolution of Social Security Disabled Widow(er)s' Benefits (May
May 14, 2002, the House of Representatives passed unanimously (418-0)
“The Social Security Benefits Enhancements for Women Act of 2002 (H.R.
4069).” One of the provisions would have marginally liberalized
eligibility for disabled widow(er)s benefits by repealing the seven- year
deadline for a surviving spouse to qualify for benefits on the basis of
disability. Although the H.R. 4069 provisions failed to be, it is the
proposed liberalization of eligibility for disabled widow(er)s benefits
are very likely to be taken up in the next legislative year. Among the
most economically at risk Social Security beneficiaries, an estimated 37
percent of Disabled Widow(er)s have below-poverty incomes after benefit
receipt (Walker, 1997). Indeed, one of the concerns related to this
benefit is that a vulnerable population of women is currently receiving a
permanently reduced benefit with long-term implications for their well
being in advanced middle and old age.
Federal Employees Health Benefits Program: Program Design, Recent
Performance and Implications for Medicare Reform (May 2003)
report provides a basic description of the Federal Employees Health
Benefits Programs (FEHBP) structure, benefits, financing, and operations.
The report also assesses FEHBP's recent performance in a variety of areas,
including cost increases, benefit changes, access to providers, and risk
selection. It concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of the
FEHBP experience for Medicare reform proposals.
raises questions about Medicare reform (May 30, 2003)
released Friday shows that restructuring Medicare to make it more like the
health insurance program might not cure Medicare's problems. The study
examined how the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plans (FEHBP), which
provides federal workers and retirees a wide choice of private health
insurance options, operates. It shows that competition alone may not
resolve the ongoing dilemma of maintaining comprehensive benefits while
controlling spending growth.
Efforts to Cut Drug Prices Get a Boost From Medicaid Chief (May 30, 2003)
budget shortfalls and rising expenses, states have been seeking ways to
control prescription drug costs, the fastest-rising cost for state
Medicaid programs. To make it easier for states to band together to buy
prescription drugs for Medicaid patients, the head of the federal
government's health-care programs said that states would be able to join
multi-state drug-buying programs administered by private companies without
breaking federal purchasing rules.
County Pension Fund Is Short $734 Million (May 30, 2003)
retirement system of Orange County, California, is suffering from a
shortfall resulted from high retirement benefits and eroding investment
income. County might sell bonds to cover the gap,
the result of declining stocks and beefed-up benefits. Rising retirement
costs could lead to layoffs.
for pension systems delayed (May 29,
Illinois government delayed the plan of combining the state’s pension
systems, according to the governor's budget director. Currently, pension
funds are managed independently by unions. The plan was designed to
combine the retirement systems for teachers, university employees, state
employees, General Assembly members and judges into a single mega-fund to
be managed by the State Board of Investments.
Elderly Women Will Bear Brunt of Medicaid
Cuts (May 29, 2003)
states plan to cut benefits for Medicaid, increase co-payments, and
restrict eligibility to the program. Some 21 states will freeze or
decrease medical payments to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes. These
cuts will to disproportionately affect elderly women, because senior women
in the country live longer and are far poorer than men on average. As a
result, more elderly women rely on programs such as Medicaid.
New Retirement Tactic for U.S.'s New Tax Law (May 29, 2003)
tax law signed Wednesday by President Bush means that investors should buy
and hold stocks in their regular accounts, and favor bonds in their
401(k)s and other tax-advantaged retirement plans. Under the new tax law,
there will be a top tax rate of just 15% on stock dividends and on
long-term capital gains, which is less than half the maximum tax rate,
35%, on ordinary income that includes interest payments from bonds.
Record retirements hit PERS (May 28, 2003)
Oregon, a record number of 7,720 public employees have submitted forms to
retire in 2003, surpassing 6,843 retirements in 1999. The Legislature and Gov. Ted Kulongoski have overhauled Public
Employees Retirement System laws this year, trying to close a $17 billion
shortfall in the system. PERS officials have said the changes could reduce
benefits for some future retirees by 25 percent or more.
for elderly drug plan (May 28, 2003)
the wake of a Supreme Court ruling, health-care reform groups urge
Maryland officials to follow Maine's lead. The Maine law allows the
State to use the power of its Medicaid program to persuade drug
manufacturers to give discounts to the elderly. Many elderly Marylanders
do not have prescription drug plans and do not get the benefit of
discounts available to people covered under government plans and private
Appointments to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (May 27, 2003)
Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) is an independent federal body whose
mandate is to analyze access to care, quality of care and other issues
affecting Medicare and to advise the Congress on payments to health plans
participating in the Medicare+Choice program and providers in Medicare’s
traditional fee-for-service program. The Commission’s 17 members serve
three-year terms (from May 1 to April 30), with five or six members’
terms expiring each year but subject to renewal.
The law requires that the Commission comprise a mix of expertise in
the financing and delivery of health care services and broad geographic
include physicians and other health professionals, employers,
third-party payers, researchers with a variety of health-related
expertise, and representatives of consumers and the elderly.
offers state retirement bonus (May 27, 2003)
bill approved by the Senate on Tuesday will pay extra money to Texas’
veteran workers to quit their jobs. This bill is designed to save $21
million over the next two years by replacing veteran workers with
lower-paid newcomers or eliminating their jobs. It could attract workers
facing layoffs or higher health care costs.
Plan Would Give Bonuses for Superior Care (May 27, 2003)
Medicare pays hospitals the same fee for a procedure regardless of the
outcome. However, in an effort to improve health care for its 40 million
patients, Medicare is planning an experiment of paying hospitals and
doctors more for superior care. This experiment is following the lead of
private employers and managed-care plans to use financial incentives to
improve health care in the U.S. Will
Vows to Work on Medicare Reform (May
Senator Joe Lieberman has agreed to push for revamping the Medicare system
that has Iowa getting the lowest reimbursement in the nation. Lieberman
signed a formal pledge offered by Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell to all
nine candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
bill, teachers to pay more to prop up retirement fund (May 26, 2003)
According to a bill approved
tentatively Monday by the House, the amount Texas teachers pay into the
Teacher Retirement System will be doubled, and school districts will pay
into the system for the first time. The bill is designed to reduce
Texas’ cost for health plans for teachers. Critics say that the bill
will place extra burden on teachers who can’t afford to pay more on
More companies eliminating pensions
(May 25, 2003)
U.S. companies are eliminating traditional pension plans. Companies that
continue to offer pension plans are struggling to meet projected
obligations of growing pensions, following three years of falling stock
prices and low interest rates. Congress is considering possible reforms
and is expected to vote on the bill early this summer.
Will the companies consider similar cuts in their profit levels or
executives’ fringe benefits?
signs bill for extra pension check, bonds (May 23, 2003)
Governor Kathleen Sebelius signed a bill today, granting an extra
month’s worth of pension benefits to about 15,000 retired teachers and
government workers. The average additional check is estimated to be $475,
to be paid in October. Over their lifetimes, affected retirees would
receive an additional $35 million.
doctors accepting Medicare
(May 21, 2003)
Colorado, family physicians who are accepting new members of Medicare has
decreased from 52 percent in 2001 to 34 percent in 2003. It gives Medicare patients a harder time in getting to see a doctor.
When seniors can’t get to see the doctor, will they get needed care
elsewhere? Will more seniors end up in the hospital emergency rooms as a
Find New Ways to Put Pension Money Into Real Estate
(May 21, 2003)
are discovering ways to buy bigger and more expensive properties with
their individual 401(k) retirement plans. Last year, tax laws allowing
individuals to set up single-participant 401(k) plans went into effect,
and a number of firms began to offer services allowing these plans to
invest in real estate, an activity single-participant IRA plans had long
Drug Proposal in Medicare Plan Faces a Stiff Battle (May 21, 2003)
As Congress begins drafting
Medicare legislation, one of the most contentious and politically
explosive issues is whether the same drug benefits should be available to
all. The Bush administration and many of its allies on Capitol Hill say
they want to use prescription drug benefits as an incentive to encourage
older Americans to enroll in private health plans.
allows ex-public workers to cash out PERS (May 20, 2003)
employees who left money sitting in the Oregon state pension system can
“cash out” their accounts before reaching retirement age under a bill
that won final legislative approval Monday. The House passed Senate Bill
258 by a 52-1 vote, sending the bill to Governor Ted Kulongoski’s desk
to be signed into law.
City Pensions, Group Suggests (May 19, 2003)
the city's first major wave of layoffs, a business-funded budget group
called Monday for charging city employees for their health insurance and
offering future employees cheaper pensions. The Citizens Budget Commission
said compensating firefighters costs more than any other employee:
$125,169 per year, including $74,393 average salary and $50,776 in fringe
benefits, mostly pensions.
retirement option draws few takers (May 19, 2003)
Nearly a year after the state of Montana unveiled
its new pension option only about 600 of the 30,000 eligible public
employees have signed up for the "defined contribution" plan.
The new option allows employees to direct where
their retirement money is invested in a variety of funds managed by Great
West Life Insurance Co. of Denver, Colo. It's similar to 401(k) plans
offered by many private employers.
Quietly Abandons Retirement-Savings Plan
(May 18, 2003)
Bush is poised to win sweeping changes in the U.S. tax system, but not the
top-to-bottom rewrite of retirement-savings incentives the White House was
seeking. The president's proposal called for switching Americans from the
dizzying array of tax-advantaged plans to a simplified system consisting
of two basic vehicles: lifetime savings accounts and retirement savings
accounts. But the plan was quietly abandoned soon after its splashy
release with the federal budget.
Medicare plan would limit doctor choice, consumer group says (May 16,
recipients would have fewer choices of doctors under a proposal requiring
senior citizens to join private insurance plans to get drug coverage, a
study contends. The study, conducted in 23 Iowa counties, was released
Thursday by Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C., consumer group that
opposes President Bush's plan to privatize Medicare drug coverage.
adds Medicare aid for Iowa to tax cut bill (May 16, 2003)
Senate approved a landmark Medicare provision Thursday that would send
millions of dollars in added federal aid to Iowa hospitals and doctors,
who long have complained that the state is short-changed by the program
for the disabled and elderly. The additional health care money passed
86-12 as an amendment to a major tax cut bill approved 51-49 Thursday by
plan revamps health system: Proposal
builds on Romney proposal (May 16, 2003)
Senate leaders yesterday unveiled a sweeping proposal to reorganize the
state's health and human service delivery system, adopting much of
Governor Mitt Romney's plan and expanding an agency designed to cater to
senior citizens' needs. Under the plan, the state's 15 health and human
service agencies would be merged into five categories, bringing one-stop
shopping to as many residents as possible when they access state services.
services worth Medicare's money: report (May 16, 2003)
make a "Welcome to Medicare" doctor visit standard for all
seniors entering the program as a way to push disease prevention and
health promotion, according to recommendations issued Friday on Capitol
Hill. Paying for such a visit could help familiarize seniors with their
health coverage options and promote prevention services, say the authors
of a report on Medicare's coverage of preventive services.
system files suit (May 15, 2003)
The bankruptcy filing of telecom
giant WorldCom has cost the Maine State Retirement System $38 million.
Looking to recoup much of that money, the agency recently filed the
lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court against 16 corporate defendants,
including Citigroup, Salomon Smith Barney, J.P. Morgan Securities, and
Healthcare Posts Loss After Shift in Medicare Policy (May 15, 2003)
Healthcare, the hospital operator, reported yesterday that it had a
first-quarter loss after it changed its policy for billing the government
for the sickest patients. The company adopted a new policy for billing
"outlier payments," which are special Medicare payments made to
health care providers for patients who incur unusually high costs.
Reported results for the quarter were impacted by a number of factors,
including the voluntary reduction in Medicare outlier payments and pending
hospital sales that must be accounted for as discontinued operations.
may put 5% of pension assets in hedge funds (May 15, 2003)
a move to diversity after three years of losses on stocks, Massachusetts
may invest as much as 5 percent of its $28 billion public-employee
retirement system in hedge funds, according to a state official.
says Legislature's pension reform bill OK (May 14, 2003)
New York Governor George Pataki said
Wednesday he will sign into law the Legislature's bill to reform and
stabilize public pension payments and save state and local governments
$1.6 billion this fiscal year. The law will save the state $650 million
this fiscal year in pension payments for its employees and a total of $1.1
billion over the next two fiscal years.
Approves Pension Rule Changes
(May 14, 2003)
House of Representatives voted 271 –157 to approve changes in pension
laws that sponsors said would provide workers advice on investing their
retirement assets, and give them more control over them. Critics
poured scorn on the bill, saying it was a sop to Wall Street firms
penalized recently for conflicts of interest involving stock analysts
because it would allow similar conflicts in the management of retirement
pushes for Medicare drug boost (May 12, 2003)
Biotech firms and
patient groups want Congress to reverse a Bush Administration rule change
that they say is making it harder to provide treatments for cancers and
some rare disorders. Unlike prescription drugs that are taken at home,
Medicare does cover prescription drugs that have to be delivered to
patients in hospitals or clinics. But a regulation change that went into
effect at the beginning of 2003 cut by an average of 35 percent
reimbursements for drugs that are delivered in hospitals and clinics.
Md. Pension Plan Gets New Chief, Direction (May 12, 2003)
The new executive director
today promises a sharp break from the past: clear communication, sound
investment and the "highest ethical standards" for the agency
that protects the pensions of 275,000 Maryland teachers, police officers
and government workers. For the past several years, the system has been
roiled by poor management, questionable if not sub-par performance and
finger-pointing over its supervision of an outside money manager now under
federal criminal investigation.
fund could face $2 billion deficit by 2009 (May 10, 2003)
Diego's troubled pension system may be in far worse shape than previously
thought and could face a deficit of more than $2 billion within six years,
according to a report prepared for city officials but buried from public
view. The report shows that much of the $2.3 billion retirement system's
troubles will result from the city's policy of deliberately under-funding
its contribution to the pension trust.
cuts quickly clear state senate (May 9, 2003)
Oregon Senate rushed passage of the most sweeping reform plan for public
employees’ pensions on Thursday, hoping to get the bill to Gov. Ted
Kulongoski before the weekend.
the proposal would save school districts and state and local governments
$678 million over the next two years.
exposed pension fund to $4.5 million loss (May 9, 2003)
A slip of the pencil two years ago at the State of Wisconsin
Investment Board that put a decimal point two places further to the left
than it should have been nearly cost the now underfunded state pension
plan $4.5 million. Unfortunately, the Wisconsin Retirement System has only
recovered $3.2 million of the money, from the Milwaukee Public Schools'
supplemental early retirement plans. The other beneficiary of the error,
the City of Milwaukee retirement fund, is no longer in the plan, so the
retirement system has requested the return of the money.
near PERS reform: The
House and Senate may act today on slashing the pension fund (May 8, 2003)dd
With two quick
votes today in the Legislature, tens of thousands of public employees
could see their future pensions slashed, saving Oregon taxpayers $6.6
billion in benefits costs. The Oregon Senate is expected to approve House
Bill 2003, which phases out the most lucrative features of the Public
Employees Retirement System. A concurring House vote is expected today or
Friday, sending the landmark PERS reform to Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s desk
for his signature.
County files suit over pension method (May 8, 2003)
Fresno County, California filed a lawsuit Wednesday against its retirement
board to stop a possibly illegal method of calculating pensions that could
cost the county millions of dollars. The lawsuit seeks to stop the
practice called the "Fresno approach" from being used in the
future, but doesn't attempt to lower pensions for people who have already
retired. Currently, some people are earning more in retirement than they
ever made as an employee of Fresno County.
proposal impresses lawmakers:
tri-state delegation pitches plan in D.C. (May 8, 2003)
A regional approach may be the right medicine for an ailing Medicare
reimbursement system that shortchanges metro Sioux City health care
providers. Tired of waiting for a broad overhaul of Medicare, Siouxland
officials propose to designate the metro area as part of Nebraska for
reimbursement purposes. Several members of the tri-state congressional
delegation voiced support.
Congress gears up for Medicare fight (May 8, 2003)
If the U.S. House and Senate
fail to pass bills to add a prescription drug benefit to the Medicare
program and make other program reforms this summer, the effort might have
to be put off until after the next election. A key goal of legislation
taking shape in the Senate is to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to move
to private plans where costs are more easily contained.
funding change backed (May 7, 2003)
United Auto Workers union supports a bill that would let automakers and
others with large numbers of blue-collar retirees cut contributions to
pension funds by billions of dollars because mortality statistics show
those workers often don't live as long. The UAW wrote a letter backing the
bill, which also allows workers to set aside more money in their IRA and
401(k) retirement plans.
Considers Measure to Cut Billions in Pension Obligations (May 06, 2003)
A bill pending in the House of Representatives would allow
businesses with union workers to reduce their company pension obligations
by billions of dollars, because statistics show that most blue-collar
workers do not live as long as other Americans. The provision, which has
gone largely unnoticed in a broad pension bill, is being supported by the
United Auto Workers and manufacturing companies whose pension funds now
have assets far short of what they are projected to need under previous
assumptions about worker longevity.
Critics Say Proposal for Medicare Could
Increase Costs (May 06, 2003)
Congressional efforts to revamp Medicare by expanding the
role of private health plans have been immensely complicated by new data
suggesting that such plans would not save money and could substantially
increase Medicare costs. Republicans in Congress said last week that they
had accepted President Bush's proposal to encourage the development of
private health plans known as preferred provider organizations, which
steer patients to certain doctors and hospitals. Competition among private
plans can slow the growth of Medicare, they said.
Bill would change retirement obligations for
blue-collar workers (May
little-noticed provision in a House pension bill would let companies that
employ blue-collar workers reduce their retirement obligations by billions
of dollars because those workers on average don't live as long as others. More
than half of the 32,000 traditional pension plans provided by private
employers are underfunded, according to the government's Pension Benefit
president tells federal panel pension proposal is crucial (May
Northwest Airlines President Doug Steenland told a federal panel Monday
that the company faces escalating pension fund obligations just when it
needs cash "to weather the current economic crisis." As
skeptical employees listened, he urged the five-member Labor Department
panel to approve Northwest's controversial request to cover more than $220
million in pension fund shortfalls with yet-to-be tradeable stock in a
subsidiary, Pinnacle Airlines.
retirement bill now tied to class-size reduction (May 05, 2003)
To get legislation that would give them a "golden handshake"
retirement bonus, the state's largest teachers union will have to accept a
bill that would relax limits on class sizes. Corbett's bill would allow
let school districts offer retirement incentives for teachers, such giving
retiring teachers two extra years of service credit.
system lacks oversight (May 4, 2003)
the state and Milwaukee County pension plans were passed quickly with no
estimate of the ultimate cost to taxpayers. A civic task force has
suggested changes in the county system, but the state plan may need reform
as well. Legislators and other observers note three problems with the
state system: no outside oversight, no public disclosure, and no estimate
of total costs.
pact a coup for Thompson (May 4, 2003)
Early in Gov. Tommy G. Thompson's tenure, he was still working
to overcome his legislative reputation as "Dr. No," a roadblock
to new programs. The icebreaker came in 1989, when Thompson signed a bill
giving higher benefits to veteran public employees who retired early.
may spur teachers to retire (May 4, 2003)
across Texas are bracing for a flurry of retirements at the end of the
school year as employees rush to beat a soon-to-close loophole that allows
them to earn thousands of dollars in Social Security benefits for one
day's work. Teachers are concerned that Congress is about to pass
legislation that would make Texas educators work five years -- instead of
one day -- in a school system covered by Social Security to collect
spousal benefits along with their own retirement benefits.
"Acute Inpatient Prospective Payment System" (May 2003)
proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, May
21, 2003. This proposed rule discusses proposed revisions to the Medicare
acute care hospital inpatient PPS for operating and capital costs for
discharges on or after October 1, 2003. In addition, this proposed rule
includes proposed changes for FY 2004 for other inpatient hospitals and
costs excluded from the hospital inpatient PPS.
At A Glance, Fact Sheet (April 2003)
This fact sheet, updated in April 2003, provides a basic
overview of the Medicare program, including how it is financed, who is
eligible, and what benefits are covered under the program. In addition, it
describes sources of supplemental health insurance to fill in Medicare's
gaps, recent trends in the Medicare+Choice program, and data on current
and future Medicare spending.
+ Choice, Fact Sheet (April 2003)
This factsheet, updated in April 2003, provides an overview
of the Medicare+Choice (M+C) program, describes recent trends in plan
participation and beneficiary enrollment, presents data on benefits and
premiums, and explains how Medicare pays participating M+C plans.
and Prescription Drugs, Fact Sheet (April 2003)
This fact sheet, updated in April 2003, profiles current
sources of prescription drug coverage among the Medicare population,
describes the characteristics of beneficiaries who lack drug coverage and
the implications of being without such coverage, and provides current data
on prescription drug use and spending.
Government workers suing over pensions
(April 30, 2003)
More than $100 million is at
stake in a class-action lawsuit launched on behalf of 10,000 members in an
underfunded Saskatchewan government pension plan. Regina lawyer Gord Kuski,
who represents the plaintiffs, said pensions are being paid, but there's
no money to enhance the benefits. Stay tuned!
faces $1B jump in pensions (April 30, 2003)
The city's pension costs are expected to
rise by $1 billion next year, creating another huge hole in the city's
budget, New York City Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday. The
city's skyrocketing pension costs are a direct result of a sweetening of
benefits for retirees and the continued downturn in the stock market.
endorses limits on reducing pensions (April 30, 2003)
City officials said Tuesday that they would support a
proposed Texas constitutional amendment that would limit their ability to
reduce pension benefits but said they remain concerned about the
legislation's potential effects.
to use bonds to cover pensions (April 30, 2003)
The county of Marin is betting it can save taxpayers about $27 million
over the next 24 years by getting the bond market to partially underwrite
its retirement system. County supervisors voted yesterday to issue $110
million in 24-year bonds to help finance the retirement system's debt.
This is not a certain remedy!
urged to restore elderly, disabled aid (April 29, 2003)
A coalition of groups representing the elderly and disabled wants
the Senate to restore services today during its debate on the budget that
would otherwise take away home health care for tens of thousands of
Texans. "We refuse to pit the elderly, individuals with disabilities
and children against each other. Citizens all over the state, regardless
of age or disability, stand to lose the public safety net of health and
long-term services," said Susan Murphree, a spokeswoman for Advocacy
police, firefighters return to work, keep pensions (April 27, 2003)
Retired police and firefighters, unlike many public
servants in New Jersey, can return to work at higher salaries while
continuing to draw pensions. The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill gave several
examples of formerly retired firefighters and law enforcement officers who
are earning more than ever after landing higher-paying jobs than the ones
says PERS reform will fail in court (April 23, 2003)
Ted Kulongoski’s plan to reform the state’s pension system likely won’t
hold up in court, a lawyer for unions representing members of the Public
Employees Retirement System said Tuesday.
Substantial changes in benefits likely are a breach of contract because of
the “promissory language” in the statutes, he says.
insurance bill moves forward (April 22, 2003)
The bills target
out-of-state health insurance companies that sell "group"
policies to individuals in Florida. Using a loophole, the companies
largely avoid rate regulation. And for some consumers that means when they
get sick, their rates skyrocket and state regulators can do nothing about
it. Al Davis, a 62-year-old
Panama City man, said he bought his policy through an out-of-state
association in 1997. But he's seen his rates increase 136 percent and has
had his deductible rise to $5,000 a year. He says he's now worried that
when his next scheduled rate increase comes in June, his monthly health
insurance premium will be nearly equal to his Social Security check.
Limiting Costs of Drugs for Medicare (April 20, 2003)
In a fundamental change, the Bush administration has begun to weigh
cost as a factor in deciding whether Medicare should pay for new drugs and
medical procedures. Medicaid, the federal-state program for poor people,
covers most prescription drugs. Will President Bush and Congress agree on
a plan to provide more extensive drug benefits to the elderly and the
disabled at a time when "drug prices are going through the roof"
and many states are cutting Medicaid benefits and eligibility? Will Bush
consider regulating profit levels on the highly profitable drug companies?
Over Budget Cuts And Elderly (April 17, 2003)
City Council members visited a group of Queens senior citizens last week
to explain the city's budget predicament and answer questions about its
possible impact on the elderly.
debates funds for lobbyists, buildings and elderly (April 16, 2003)
An ongoing budget debate has caused a
major partisan rift in the House as many Democrats urge lawmakers to
increase funding, while Republicans and other supporters keep their pledge
to cut programs instead of raising taxes. Democrats
have shaped the budget debate as wants versus needs. They claim
Republicans are funding wants, while the state's most needy citizens are
being denied services.
Driving Some Elderly From Their Homes (April
property values and higher tax rates are creating financial hardship for
many older people. Several
towns in the Northeast have been looking for creative ways to make
property taxes less onerous. At least three towns have adopted programs
like Harvard's, allowing older people to work off part of their taxes.
Some towns have increased tax exemptions for the elderly. Others have
allowed older people to postpone paying part of their taxes until they
sell their property.
Bush's Stealth Attack On Medicaid (April 11,
Under the cover of the war on
Iraq, President Bush is stealthily working to devastate Medicaid - a
program that provides access to health care for millions, including
middle-income Americans in need of long-term care.
Cash Balance Pensions Debated (April 10,
let companies adopt cash balance pensions without protections for older
workers, pleaded labor advocates and employees at an Internal Revenue
Service and Treasury Department hearing yesterday. These pension plans slash
the benefits of those nearing retirement, while saving the companies
millions of dollars in pension costs, they argued.
White House to scrap plan on
pensions shift (April 8, 2003)
The Bush Administration wanted to permit
companies to convert traditional pension plans to ‘‘cash balance’’
plans. Aging advocates and other critics say cash balance plans hurt older
workers. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have
made a broader proposal, which among other things advises companies how to
avoid age-discrimination lawsuits when switching to cash-balance plans.
Presents Budget to Senate (April 8, 2003)
Acting Secretary for the Department of Aging, Nora A. Dowd assured the
Senate Appropriations Committee that all services including PACE provided
by the Department of Aging would be sustained regardless of the budget
backs off pension plan change (April 7, 2003)
Internal Revenue Service will withdraw controversial new regulations to
convert traditional employee pension plans to "cash balance"
plans, that have met significant opposition among workers and on Capitol
teachers concerned about plan to reduce funding for pensions (April 2,
Retired teachers are concerned about a proposal in Gov. John G. Rowland's
budget to reduce the amount the state puts into the teachers' pension
Pensions Green Paper 'too narrow focused' (01
The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) says the
Government has missed a golden opportunity to simplify the pensions
landscape and boost future retirement saving. “I am disappointed that
the DWP has failed to take this golden opportunity to bring about equally
radical change in the wider pensions regime” says Peter Thompson, the
chairman of NAPF.
care and prescription drug spending by seniors (March 2003)
for health care and for prescription drugs among seniors has increased
over the 1980-97 period; the seniors who had insurance coverage in
addition to Medicare, on average, spent more on health care and
prescription drugs than those who had Medicare coverage only.
State pension reform. A sound
idea from Albany (March 31, 2003)
New York State comptroller Alan G.
Hevesi is proposing a solution for revamping the state's outdated public
employee pension system.
Iowa Lawmakers Tap Fund Meant for
Elderly (March 30, 2003)
Decreases in tax revenue prompted Iowa lawmakers
to withdraw money from the Senior Living Trust to pay for Medicaid
expenses. The Trust originally was designed to help older people to live
independently in their homes, providing funds for meal deliveries,
visiting nurses, transportation and other services. Now it’s diverted to
Medicare Recipients Face 12.4%
Rise in Premiums (March 25, 2003)
Medicare beneficiaries face a 12.7 percent increase in premiums next year,
and doctors' fees will probably be cut 4.2 percent because Medicare
spending surged unexpectedly last year, federal officials says.
Hevesi warns of impending
pension-cost hike for localities (March 17, 2003)
New York State Comptroller Alan
Hevesi is urging government leaders to be prepared for a lingering
escalation in local taxpayers' cost for public employee pensions. Hevesi
warns that this is not likely to be a short-term problem.
Ohio fails to adapt to seniors'
new needs (March 17, 2003)
Ohio’s Gov. Bob Taft plans to cut state aid to nursing homes, saying
that nursing homes resident population declined by about 100,000 in the
past decade, and that the state pays part of the cost to maintain an
estimated 12,700 empty beds.
Medicare Says No ... Try, Try, Try Again (March 16, 2003)
Medicare’s appeal process helps if a claim gets turned down. The
chances of success seem quite significant, above 60%. The article gives
useful insight on how to file appeals and increase the chances to win
Pension Costs Smothering City
(March 15, 2003)
Recession has transformed the New
York City's pension funds into tax hogs that consume hundreds of millions
of extra dollars. The consequences, financial experts say, could include
higher taxes, bigger deficits, more borrowing and ultimately deeper cuts
in the same city services the pension funds once nourished.
Medicaid Medically Needy
Programs: An Important Source of Medicaid Coverage (January, 2003)
issue paper by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured
describes the options for the medically needy to qualify for Medicaid
coverage, how it works for people with disabilities, the elderly, and
low-income families, and highlights some key issues surrounding the
program. Included in the paper are hypothetical examples of ways in which
individuals can qualify for Medicaid as medically needy.