Feb 6, 2020 - Health

Trump's latest boost for Medicare Advantage

President Trump and CMS administrator Seema Verma. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration announced Wednesday more changes designed to make Medicare Advantage more appealing and to lower prescription drug costs for seniors.

Why it matters: Although the proposal mainly tinkers around the edges, it could have a meaningful impact on some seniors' pocketbooks while furthering the administration's commitment to Medicare Advantage, a cash cow for insurers.

Details: The proposal aims to create more transparency within Medicare's prescription drug benefit, and to enhance price competition.

  • Beginning in 2022, plans would be required to give beneficiaries tools to compare the out-of-pocket costs of different drugs, which would allow patients to know their drug costs ahead of time and to shop around for the cheapest medications.
  • The proposal also aims to create more price competition among specialty drugs, which tend to be the most expensive drugs on the market.

It also would allow all seniors with end-stage renal disease to enroll in Medicare Advantage, beginning in 2021.

  • Medicare Advantage beneficiaries this year are gaining access to telehealth benefits that aren't available to seniors enrolled in traditional fee-for-service Medicare, and the new proposal would build on these benefits.

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Medicare Advantage enrollment swells

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Roughly 24.4 million seniors and people with disabilities were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan as of this month, a 9.4% jump from the same time in 2019, according to the latest federal data analyzed by Axios.

Why it matters: Medicare Advantage, which is run by private health insurers, continues to grow at high rates despite concerns over the program's higher spending and evidence that insurers are making people appear sicker than they are.

Go deeperArrowFeb 19, 2020 - Health

Medicare for All is dividing unions across the country

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Unions across the country are at odds over Medicare for All, with some saying it would free them up to focus on wages and working conditions, while others argue that the health benefits they've already won are better, Politico reports.

The big picture: The fight reflects the larger battle over Medicare for All, but is particularly acute in union-heavy states like California, New York and Michigan. This has all come to a head in Nevada, after the Culinary Workers Union slammed Medicare for All and didn't endorse any of the candidates, providing a portrait of how divisive the issue is within one of the Democratic party's most loyal institutions.

Go deeper ... Medicare for All: Where the Democratic candidates stand

AOC concedes Sanders may have to compromise on Medicare for All

Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders rally in Durham, New Hampshire on Feb. 10. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) conceded Thursday that Sen. Bernie Sanders' signature Medicare for All proposal would face congressional roadblocks if he was elected president, telling HuffPost: “A president can’t wave a magic wand and pass any legislation they want."

Why it matters: Ocasio-Cortez is a vocal proponent of Medicare for All and one of Sanders' highest-profile surrogates. She told HuffPost: "The worst-case scenario? We compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option. Is that a nightmare? I don’t think so."

Go deeperArrowFeb 13, 2020 - Health