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04.18 'We Can Be Whatever We Have the Courage to See': New Video From AOC Envisions a #GreenNewDeal Future [7:35 video]

04.18 'Decades of denial': major report finds New Zealand's environment is in serious trouble

04.17 Thawing Permafrost Emitting Higher Levels of Potent Greenhouse Gas Than Previously Thought: Study

04.16 'That Backfired': Watch Bernie Sanders Counter Right-Wing Talking Point, Make Case for Medicare for All on Fox News

04.16 Cause of cancer is written into DNA of tumours, scientists find, creating a 'black box' for origin of disease

04.16 Scientists Unveil World's First Human Heart 3D-Printed From Patients' Own Cells

04.15 What It Was Like to Have a Baby in Sweden

04.14 'Shut the country down': British climate group Extinction Rebellion heads to US

04.13 With Youth Climate Actions Backed by Leading Experts, Latest Round of Protests Highlights Call for Bold and Urgent Action

04.11 Will You Rise Up for Climate Justice Next Week? Don’t Let Fatalism and Cynicism Hold You Back

04.11 300+ Groups to Congress: #GreenNewDeal 'Must Transform Our Food System and Revitalize Rural America'

04.10 Glaciers and arctic ice are vanishing. Time to get radical before it's too late [Willfully ignorant "conservatives" and corporately-bribed liberals diddle self-obsessively while life on earth dies]

04.10 Is there a beautiful, briny solution to the world’s clean water crisis?

04.08 'The perfect storm': hydrogen gains ground on LNG as alternative fuel [Good!]

04.08 Himalayan glaciers on the eve of destruction

04.08 Russia moves to free nearly 100 captive whales after outcry [Good!]

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04.12 DOJ Charging Docs: Julian Assange Committed Journalism

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US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

04.19 14 Must-Read Moments From the Mueller Report

04.19 No One Listens to the President

04.19 'Whimsical, uninformed': French ambassador's parting verdict on Trump

04.19 Mueller report: press secretary Sarah Sanders admitted to lying to reporters

04.19 Videos appear to show armed militia detaining migrants at US-Mexico border

04.19 Mueller report unable to clear Trump of obstruction of justice [PDF]

04.19 Nadler says Mueller report shows 'disturbing evidence' of obstruction of justice – video [2:41 video]

04.19 The Pentagon’s Bottomless Money Pit [pdf; Until the Pentagon can pass audits, use their allocated budget to fight causes of global warming]

04.18 Top Democrats Accuse Barr of 'Acting to Protect Donald Trump' Ahead of Mueller Report Rollout

04.18 Bernie Sanders 'Raises the Bar Even Further' on Climate With Vow to Ban Fracking, All New Fossil Fuel Projects [Mindlessly killing ourselves must stop]

04.16 How Progressives Can Fix the Progressive Income Tax

04.16 Why the US Elected a Despot, and Why It's Poised To Do It Again

04.16 'This Is a Big Deal': Warren Vows to Ban New Leases for Fossil Fuel Drilling Offshore and on Public Lands

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04.19 The Mueller Report Is Clear: Donald Trump Repeatedly Tried to Obstruct Justice

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04.17 'Shameful': With Millions on Brink of Famine in Yemen, Trump Vetoes Resolution to End US Complicity

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04.19 The Public Banking Revolution Is Upon Us

04.18 Mark Carney tells global banks they cannot ignore climate change dangers

04.17 A Path to Democratic Socialism Means a Path To Climate Justice

04.12 Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Rest [4:30 video]

International & Futurism

04.19 Ways to Save the World

04.18 Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population

04.18 Britain will have its second referendum – at the EU elections on 23 May

04.18 Hypocrisy without borders: the pomposity of Ivanka Trump’s trip to Africa

04.16 Our Zero Emission Future [Be smart or life dies]

04.16 'The Time for Excuses Is Over': Extinction Rebellion Protests Shut Down European Cities

04.16 The Trump-Netanyahu Alliance

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  Why Medicare Benefits Won't Fall

COMMENTARY:

Why Medicare Benefits Won’t Fall

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation Friday, 26 March 2010

Additional analysis on what the health care legislation means for older Americans can be found on the website of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Here are a couple of key points: One is on the budget impact of the reform and why Medicare benefits won’t be cut. The other concerns private Medicare Advantage plans.For the entire statement, go here.

Despite the fear mongers’ claims, Medicare benefits will not be cut to pay for covering the uninsured. Before health reform, the federal government was projected to spend about $6 trillion on the Medicare program over the next decade. After enactment of health reform, Medicare is still projected to spend about $5.6 trillion. That means over the next 10 years about $450 billion less of American’s money will be spent on wasteful tests, haphazard treatment options, wasteful subsidies to private insurance companies and reimbursement policies that drive up costs without improving the quality of care seniors receive. The rate of growth will be trimmed by about 1.0 percent over the next 10 years, from about 6.8 percent growth rate to 5.8 percent – hardly the destruction of Medicare that opponents have claimed.

As a result, the lifespan of the Medicare Trust Fund will more than double: its solvency will be extended from 2017 to about 2026. Medicare will continue to grow to meet the needs of an expanding older population, but it will grow at a slower rate that will more closely match the growth of the rest of the economy. And because health reform is designed to slow the growth of costs in the entire health care system at the same time, seniors’ out-of-pocket costs will be trimmed without driving providers out of the Medicare program or creating other barriers to care.

While these improvements are being made, health reform also provides new tools to help crack down on the fraud in the current Medicare program. For example, by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service to share information, it will be easier to stop Medicare payments to scam artists masquerading as legitimate providers. The health reform legislation also gives the agencies more time to verify that providers are legitimate and that they have provided seniors with the wheelchairs, hospital beds, oxygen tanks and other lifesaving pieces of equipment that they are billing to the Medicare program. Fraud in the Medicare program hurts us all by increasing costs.

Many people worry that curtailment of the Medicare Advantage ripoff plans signals the beginning of the end, denying care to millions and–as people always warn whenever there’s government “intervention” in medicine, driving the doctors out of business. Here’s what the Committee has to say about Medicare Advantage:

Making changes in the Medicare Advantage program is another way of restoring the integrity of Medicare by reducing wasteful spending. Medicare Advantage is the privatized part of Medicare whose growth has been fueled by the massive subsidies enacted in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. Medicare Advantage plans are paid on average 13 percent more per enrollee than it costs to provide comparable care in traditional Medicare. These subsidies, which cost over $11 billion in 2009 alone, are paid for by taxpayers and by all beneficiaries, whether or not they are enrolled in a private plan. It is estimated that every couple receiving Medicare, including the 75 percent in traditional Medicare, will pay about $90 in additional Part B premiums this year to subsidize those in the private Medicare Advantage plans. And although these plans provide some additional benefits, many require much higher cost-sharing from seniors for expensive services such as chemotherapy, extended hospital stays and skilled nursing home care – a shortcoming few seniors realize until they find themselves needing the service.

Despite what some are claiming, the health reform legislation does not eliminate Medicare Advantage plans or reduce the extra benefits they provide. The legislation simply phases down the exorbitant subsidies they are currently getting so their payments end up more in line with what it would cost traditional Medicare to cover the same seniors. It is up to each private insurer to decide how to absorb the reduced payments, and whether to continue providing extra benefits. The insurers who run Medicare Advantage plans cannot cut guaranteed benefits – they are required to offer all benefits covered by traditional Medicare. And under the new health reform law, they are now prohibited from charging seniors more than traditional Medicare for expensive services. They are also, for the first time, required to spend at least 85 percent of their revenue on patient care rather than profits or overhead. Finally, the legislation rewards Medicare Advantage plans that are providing high-quality care by giving them bonus payments.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found at JamesRidgeway.net and at his newest web site, Solitary Watch.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on March 29, 2010.
 

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