KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

CMS: Medicare Advantage, Part D To Get 3 Percent Boost In 2013 Reimbursements

Also in the news, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced nearly $50 million in grants to state agencies to help seniors better understand Medicare.  

CQ HealthBeat: CMS Allows 3 Percent Growth Rate For Medicare Advantage, Part D
Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services late Monday announced that the estimated annual average reimbursement growth rate for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans in 2013 will be 3.07 percent. The average plan increase is likely better news than last year's increase for the private health plans that serve Medicare patients; the reimbursement increase then was 0.4 percent on average. This year's uptick, beginning Jan. 1, will promote a "stable" landscape for the plans' insurers, officials said (Norman,4/2).

The Hill: Medicare Counselors Get Nearly $50M In Grants
The federal Medicare agency awarded nearly $50 million in grants Monday to state offices that help seniors understand Medicare. The agency will award $46.5 million over the next year to State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs). There are 54 SHIPS in the United States and the territories. The organizations provide one-on-one counseling to seniors about their Medicare benefits. A second round of SHIP grants, based on performance, will be awarded in September (Baker, 4/2).

CMS also backtracked on a recent policy affecting nursing homes and pharmacies.

Bloomberg: Nursing Homes Won't Have To Hire Independent Pharmacists
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services backtracked on a plan that would have required nursing homes to hire independent pharmacists to assess residents' prescriptions. Regulators "decided to further study the issue for future policy considerations," Jonathan Blum, deputy director of the agency, said in a conference call with reporters late yesterday. The centers said in October it was considering stricter rules to oversee patients' drug regimens, an announcement that sent the stocks of nursing home pharmacies, including Omnicare Inc. (OCR) and PharMerica Corp. (PMC), tumbling (Wayne, 4/3).

The Hill: Medicare Agency Drops Proposed Pharmacy Restrictions At Nursing Homes
The Medicare agency announced Monday that it has dropped a proposed requirement that nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities work with independent pharmacists in an effort to tamp down on overprescribing of antipsychotics and other drugs. The agency has decided to "further study the issue" after stakeholders raised concerns that doctors' prescription patterns, rather than consultant pharmacists, were driving overuse, said Jonathan Blum, the director for the Center for Medicare at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Pecquet, 4/2).

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