Medicare & Aging News From KHN — 2012

Kaiser Health News has had a variety of coverage about Medicare, long-term care and other issues affecting seniors’ quality of care and life. Below is a complete list of our 2012 coverage.

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KHN’s coverage of aging and long-term care issues is produced with support from The SCAN Foundation.

DECEMBER

Medicare Discloses Hospitals’ Bonuses, Penalties Based On Quality
By Jordan Rau, December 20
Under a program set up by the health law, payments to 1,557 hospitals will be increased, while 1,427 will drop.

Spending, Taxing Remain Sticking Points As ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Looms
Mary Agnes Carey and Jackie Judd, December 18
KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey speaks with Jackie Judd about negotiations on Capitol Hill to avoid the “fiscal cliff” and just how close — or far apart — Democrats, Republicans and the White House seem to be on cutting spending and letting some tax cuts for the rich expire.

Spending, Taxing Remain Sticking Points As ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Looms
December 18
KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey speaks with Jackie Judd about negotiations on Capitol Hill to avoid the “fiscal cliff” and just how close — or far apart — Democrats, Republicans and the White House seem to be on cutting spending and letting some tax cuts for the rich expire.

‘If I’d Had To Wait Until 67 For Medicare, I’d Be Dead’
By Russ Mitchell, December 18
Those approaching retirement, employers pan proposals to raise the Medicare eligibility age.

Seniors Need To Be Tenacious In Appeals To Medicare
By Susan Jaffe, December 17
Consumer advocates say that efforts to get Medicare to reverse a decision denying coverage of care are frequently rejected at first, but the chances of success are much better for beneficiaries who keep appealing until they reach the level handled by an administrative law judge.

How To File A Medicare Appeal
By Susan Jaffe, December 17
Here are some basic steps for challenging Medicare coverage denials under Part A (including hospitalization, nursing homes and hospice services) and Part B (doctor visits, tests, home health care, durable medical equipment).

Medicare Silver Bullets: What’s The Best Way To Control Costs?
December 12
KHN asked a range of health policy experts the following question: If you could make only one change to Medicare to control costs, what would it be and why?

As Population Diversifies, Rethinking How We Care For Elderly
By Liz Seegert, December 11
Gerontologist Peggye Dilworth-Anderson discusses why we need to rethink what we perceive of as “normal” aging.

Aging Doctors Face Greater Scrutiny
By Sandra G Boodman, December 10
There are no mandatory retirement ages for doctors or formal evaluations of their skills, but some hospitals are now requiring older physicians to have periodic physical and cognitive exams.

Huge Experiment Aims To Save On Care For Poorest, Sickest Patients
By Mary Agnes Carey and Sarah Varney, December 5
An effort in California to move Medicaid patients into managed care has national significance as federal officials roll out a similar but larger program for as many as 2 million people who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare.

Medicare Changes Loom As ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Negotiations Pick Up
December 5
KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about Republican and Democratic proposals and possible cuts in federal health care spending.

How The ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Affects Health Care: Six Questions
By Mary Agnes Carey, December 4
As Congress and the president aim for a deal by year’s end, there may be serious consequences for health programs.

Study: Hospice Rules May Keep Away Patients
By Jordan Rau, December 3
Nearly four out of five hospices have enrollment policies that keep away patients with potentially high-cost medical needs, such as palliative chemotherapy and intravenous feeding tubes.

NOVEMBER

Insurance Commissioners Reject Calls To Limit Seniors’ Medigap Policies
By Susan Jaffe, November 30
The group argues that increasing cost-sharing would stop people from seeking necessary care.

Hospitals Offer Wide Array Of Services To Keep Patients From Needing To Return
By Jordan Rau, November 27
Free scales, diet tips and home visits from nurses all aim to curtail readmissions.

Effort To Curb Medicare Spending Begins With Crackdown On Hospital Readmissions
By Jordan Rau, November 26
The 2010 federal health law calls for penalties for hospitals with high rates of readmissions as the government seeks to trim spending in the the health program for the elderly and disabled.

Feds Say Nursing Homes Overbilled Medicare By $1.5 Billion
By Jenni Bergal, November 15
Nursing home group lashes out at government report, saying “bureaucrats” don’t know what’s good for patients.

Fiscal Cliff: What Is At Stake For Medicare And Medicaid?
November 15
Jackie Judd talks to KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey about the budget negotiation scenarios for Medicare, where the “doc fix” fits into the budget picture, and whether Medicaid cuts are possible.

Providers File The Bulk Of Medicare Appeals
By Susan Jaffe, November 15
Health care providers who appealed to Medicare judges won more often than patients did, according to a report by the inspector general at the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Hospitals, Home Health Care Services Lobby Against Cuts In Deficit Deal
By Mary Agnes Carey, November 15
As lawmakers and President Barack Obama discuss possible changes to federal entitlement programs as part of a larger deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, expect provider groups to make their case loud and clear: Don’t cut us.

Progressive Group Recommends $385 Billion In Health Cuts
By Phil Galewitz, November 14
Hospitals, drug companies, nursing homes and health plans would lose billions in Medicare funding over the next decade under a budget deficit cutting plan recommended by the Center for American Progress.

Avoiding The ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Likely Means Changes In Medicare
By Mary Agnes Carey, November 13
Congress would probably look for cuts in the health care program for seniors and the disabled as it seeks to find ways to curb federal spending.

Medicare Extends Enrollment Period For Those Affected By Sandy
By Susan Jaffe, November 8
Federal officials have extended the Dec. 7 deadline to enroll in a private medical or drug plan for next year for those still coping with storm damage.

President’s Win Is Reprieve For ‘Obamacare’
By Jay Hancock, November 7
The president’s victory cements the Affordable Care Act, expanding coverage to millions but leaving weighty questions about how to pay for it.

Federal Deficit Talks Could Impact Obama’s Moves On Health Law
By Mary Agnes Carey, November 7
Mounting pressures to reduce spending could lead the administration to change several key provisions of the health overhaul.

Democrats’ Medicare Offensive Falls Flat Against GOP
By Richard E. Cohen, November 7
But the status quo on Capitol Hill doesn’t mean that the parties are unwilling to work on health care issues.

Dispelling Some Rumors About Medicare And The Health Law Limiting Care
By Michelle Andrews, November 5
Insurance columnist answers readers’ questions, including two about whether some older seniors are denied access to surgeries and whether the health law restricts the number of prescription drugs for patients.

Medicare Trying To Nudge Seniors Out Of Plans With Low Ratings
By Susan Jaffe, November 5
Government is sending letters to a half million beneficiaries to alert them to their plans’ poor performance.

Medicare Excludes Mid-Sized Physician Groups From Start Of New Payment System
By Jordan Rau, November 2
Medicare is sparing 5,300 mid-sized physicians groups from the first phase of the government’s effort to pay doctors based on the quality of care.

OCTOBER

Romney Narrows Gap With Obama On Voters’ Trust To Manage Medicare
By Phil Galewitz, October 31
Among likely voters, GOP candidate Mitt Romney has pulled nearly even with Obama on which candidate would do a better job with Medicare.

Industry Likes Medicare Home Care Expansion, But Cost Is Unknown
By Jay Hancock, October 24
Patient advocacy and industry groups are cheering Medicare’s move to start paying nursing home, home care and physical therapy bills for some patients who were previously denied coverage. But how much extra it will cost the government is far from clear.

Wis. Senate Candidates Spar Over Health Issues
By Richard E. Cohen, October 22
Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Rep. Tammy Baldwin bring an unusual level of health care expertise to the campaign.

Revised Medicare Penalties Hit Some States Hard
By Jordan Rau, October 22
Medicare’s readmissions penalties are falling hardest on hospitals in New Jersey, New York, Arkansas, Mississippi and the District of Columbia, a Kaiser Health News analysis of updated government data shows.

Seniors Satisfied With Medicare, Anxious About Future, Survey Finds
By Alvin Tran, October 18
Although most seniors appear to be at least somewhat satisfied with their Medicare coverage, many are deeply worried about what the future may hold for the program.

Putting The ‘Care’ Into Long-Term Care Insurance
By Kristian Foden-Vencil, Oregon Public Broadcasting, October 17
States enact new rules to help consumers make claims.

Houston Hit Hard In Latest Medicare Fraud Bust
By Carrie Feibel, KUHF, October 17
For the Bayou City, it was the latest in a disturbing series of revelations about health care fraud there.

As More Employers Drop Coverage, Retirees Turn To Specialized Insurance Exchanges
By Michelle Andrews, October 15
Counselors help consumers who are eligible for Medicare enroll in plans that replace their old workplace benefits.

Study Finds Premium Support Plan Could Raise Medicare Premiums In Many Parts of Country
By Jordan Rau, October 15
Seniors in both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans would be affected by the change, according to research that looks at how a voucher system would have worked in 2010.

Enrollment Season Opens For Medicare Advantage And Drug Plans
By Susan Jaffe, October 15
Most seniors are expected to stick with the same policies they have already, despite price changes and a rating system that shows some plans may be better than others.

VP Debate: Two Visions For Medicare
October 12
Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan laid out their parties’ competing visions for Medicare at the vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky.

Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP All Targets For Fraud
By Alvin Tran, October 12
When it comes to health care fraud, medical facilities and hospitals are the top two offenders.

Study: CMS Penalties Don’t Change Hospital-Acquired Infection Rates
By Julie Appleby, October 10
A Medicare payment policy designed to push hospitals to cut their infection rates has had no effect in reducing two types of preventable infections among patients in intensive care units.

Sen. Schumer Says Increasing Medicare Age Won’t Be In Any Deal
By Mary Agnes Carey, October 10
Democrats have said they are willing to overhaul entitlements if Republicans agree to new tax revenues as part of a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit, but Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said not to expect the Medicare eligibility age to be increased as part of any deal.

Federal Retiree Weighs Whether To Keep FEHB Or Switch To Medigap
By Michelle Andrews, October 8
Insurance columnist answers readers’ questions about federal workers’ best deal on supplementing Medicare and signing up for Medicare if you’re living abroad.

Critical Decisions Await Patient, Family Members When Medicare Deadline Looms
By Sarah Varney, October 8
Every day, at least 10,000 people turn 65 and most become eligible for Medicare. That can raise lots of questions: for those still working, should they enroll or keep their company’s health plan? If they retire, how does that affect spouses and children?

Study: Most Seniors’ ER Visits Could Be Avoided
By Phil Galewitz, October 5
Nearly 60 percent of Medicare beneficiary visits to emergency rooms and 25 percent of their hospital admissions were “potentially preventable.”

Denver Debate: The Candidates Discuss Medicare
October 4
Medicare and how to rein in its rapidly growning costs was a major focus of the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.

HHS Secretary Touts The ACA’s Benefits For Older Hispanics
By Shefali S. Kulkarni, October 3
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at the National Hispanic Council on Aging’s National Summit about the dire need to protect Medicare and Medicaid funding to a critical electoral constituency.

Medicare Revises Hospitals’ Readmissions Penalties
By Jordan Rau, October 2
Officials made small errors in calculating how much hospitals will be docked for having too many patients return within 30 days. Many hospitals will lose a bit more under new calculations.

Hospitals Need Networks To Prevent Readmissions
By Eric Whitney, Colorado Public Radio, October 2
The federal government wants many hospitals to adopt a model like Denver Health, which keeps readmissions low through its own network of neighborhood clinics.

Medicare’s Pay For Performance Effort Begins, Targeting Quality and Readmissions
By Jordan Rau, October 1
Starting Oct. 1, Medicare is withholding 1 percent of its regular hospital reimbursements in the new Value-Based Purchasing Program, which was created by the 2010 health care law.

SEPTEMBER

Poll: Younger Americans More Receptive Than Seniors To GOP Medicare Plan
By Jordan Rau, September 27
Among those under 55, a majority want to keep the current program, but 44 percent prefer switching to premium support – a proposal panned by those 55 and older.

HHS Touts Growth In Medicare Advantage Plans, Drop In Premiums
By Mary Agnes Carey, September 19
The Obama administration said that as a result of the law seniors now have more private plans to choose from and that coverage is less expensive.

Medicare Battle Heats Up California House Race
By Sarah Varney, September 18
A recent town hall shows how explosive the Medicare debate can get in the hottest races in the country.

Often Overlooked In Nursing Home Admission Paperwork Is An Arbitration Agreement
By Michelle Andrews, September 17
Signing the form means that if a problem can’t be amicably resolved, the patient or family agrees to take the dispute to a professional arbitrator rather than file a lawsuit.

Recessions Harm Older Workers’ Long-Term Health, Data Show
By Jay Hancock, September 17
Economists mashed mortality and employment data over the past four decades to find what you might expect but what had never been measured on this scale: Experiencing an economic recession in your late 50s, on average, isn’t just bad for your wallet.

Hospital Readmissions Rates Dropping Slightly, New Study Finds
By Jordan Rau, September 14
A new government analysis has found that hospital readmission rates of Medicare patients have fallen more than previously reported, bolstering hope that hospitals are having some success at tackling this stubborn and expensive problem.

Long-Term Care A Big Worry In California, Study Finds
By Sarah Varney, September 13
A new poll by The SCAN Foundation and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that half of California voters say they’ll need long-term care for a close family member in the next few years, but won’t be able to afford it.

How Is Your Medicare Drug Plan Like Your Cable Company?
By Jay Hancock, September 12
Some Medicare prescription drug plans raise premiums about 10 percent if you stick around too long, a new study finds.

Medicare Pilot Program Shows Cost Savings For Treating Dual-Eligibles
By Shefali S. Kulkarni, September 11
Researchers released a deeper look at the Physician Group Practice Demonstration, one of the federal government’s first pay-for-performance experiments to improve health care and reduce costs for the Medicare population.

Shingles Vaccinations Not Covered For Some Medicare Beneficiaries
By Michelle Andrews, September 11
Answers to readers’ questions about how seniors can qualify for coverage for the inoculations, whether parents are required to keep young adults on their plan and getting pregnancy care for dependents.

Obama: ‘I Will Never Turn Medicare Into A Voucher’
September 7
In their acceptance speeches at the DNC, President Obama and Vice President Biden both denounced Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare as a “voucher.”

Bill Clinton On Medicare: ‘There Were No Cuts To Benefits At All’
September 6
As part of his 50-minute defense of the Obama administration’s record, the former president praised Obama’s health policies, asking, “Are we better off because President Obama fought for health care reform? You bet we are.”

California Pilot Offers Caveats For Moving ‘Dual Eligibles’ To Managed Care
By Mary Agnes Carey, September 4
Despite efforts by state and health plan officials to smooth the transition, caregivers and others reported “the managed care system … was not prepared” to care for the population’s specific needs.

Young People Pay Less For Health Coverage, Older People Pay More, Under Maine’s ‘Market-Based’ Approach
By Julie Appleby, September 4
Everyone under 40 saw rate cuts, while most people over 55 received increases, some as high as 18 percent, according to an analysis of state data.

Are Medicare’s New Quality Incentives Large Enough To Change Hospital Behavior?
By Jordan Rau, September 4
A number of health policy experts are questioning whether the amounts of money at stake are large enough to make a difference.

August

FAQ: Obama v. Ryan On Controlling Federal Medicare Spending
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, August 29
Their approaches to curbing costs are very different. And the practical effects on seniors are also likely to be different

Paul Ryan’s Health Care Record
August 28
By choosing Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney put Medicare on the table as a major 2012 campaign issue.

Hospitals Tally Likely Costs From New Readmissions Penalties
By Jordan Rau, August 24
Across the country, hospitals are estimating how much money they are going to forfeit when Medicare’s new penalties for excess readmissions kick in.

CBO Says Medicare Spending Growth Slower Than Expected
By Sarah Barr, August 24
The Congressional Budget Office said that Medicare spending growth is slowing, although the program will take up a larger share of the economy in a decade than it does now.

Medicare Takes Center Stage In Close Pennsylvania Races
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, August 23
Medicare has catapulted from an issue that political strategists said could make a difference in close races to a central component of congressional campaigns nationwide.

Medicare Fraud Squads Wield New Weapons
By Sarah Varney, August 21
The fraud squads who look for scams in the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs have some new weapons: tools and funding provided by the health law.

Health Law Prompts Review Of Some Medigap Plans
By Michelle Andrews, August 20
In responses to readers’ questions, columnist Michelle Andrews looks at efforts to curb spending by Medigap insurance.

Maryland Seeks A New Balance In Its Unique Hospital Payment System
By Jay Hancock, August 19
Maryland hospitals want insurers to pay more as the state considers cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.

FAQ: Decoding The $716 Billion In Medicare Reductions
By Mary Agnes Carey, August 17
As the political campaigns tussle over how to handle the program, KHN examines the ongoing debate.

Hospitals React To Readmissions Penalties
Diane Webber, August 17
A recent KHN analysis of Medicare data shows that 2,211 hospitals will face penalties in October for having too many patients readmitted for care. Hospital executives around the country have had something to say about those penalties and the new policy.

CDC: All Baby Boomers Should Be Tested For Hepatitis C
By Ankita Rao, August 16
Baby boomers are by far the most vulnerable, with more than 75 percent of infections occurring within the group.

Don’t Change Medicare, Most Republicans Say In Poll
By Jay Hancock, August 16
As Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare makes campaign headlines, a majority of Republicans oppose changing the government program for seniors.

Denver Health: Low Readmission Rate Not Easy To Emulate
By Eric Whitney, Colorado Public Radio, August 16
Denver Health’s quality chief calls the new Medicare penalties for high hospital readmission rates imprecise and perhaps unfair, too.

Ohio Medicaid Program Raises Stakes For Nursing Homes
By Judith Graham, August 14
The state sets the largest financial incentive program in the country, tying about 10 percent of reimbursements to facilities’ meeting quality standards.

Health On The Hill: Romney’s Choice Of Ryan Is Key To Politics Of Medicare Debate
By Mary Agnes Carey and Marilyn Werber Serafini, August 13
KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey and Marilyn Werber Serafini discuss how Medicare reforms could figure into November’s presidential election now that presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to be his running mate.

Many People Would Like To Know Their Risk Of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease
By Michelle Andrews, August 13
Current testing provides only limited information and is generally discouraged by experts. In addition, health insurance generally doesn’t cover it. 

Medicare To Penalize 2,211 Hospitals For Excess Readmissions
By Jordan Rau, August 13
Too many patients are returning to the hospital soon after being discharged, a costly problem the government is tackling.

U.S. Should Make ‘Life-Long Homes’ A Priority, Says Henry Cisneros
By Judith Graham, August 13
Former HUD secretary helps lay out plans for independent living in “an aging America” in a new book.

FAQ: How Paul Ryan Proposes To Change Medicare
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, August 11
Under Ryan’s plan, the federal share of Medicaid spending would drop sharply as the program becomes a block grant to states indexed for inflation and population growth.

Medicare Seeks To Cut Number Of Seniors Denied Nursing Home Coverage After Hospital Stays
By Susan Jaffe, August 10
The government is testing new hospital payment rules to see if fewer beneficiaries will be classified as observation patients, which can be a costly designation for seniors.

Survey: Boomers Worry About Medicare’s Future, Want More Details From Candidates
By Ankita Rao, August 9
An AARP survey suggests that baby boomers aren’t confident they can retire as planned – or that they will have access to Medicare when they do.

Rep. Courtney Pushes Bill To Expand Medicare Coverage Of Nursing Home Stays
By Susan Jaffe, August 9
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) went to a New London nursing home to drum up support for legislation that would help residents such as a 98-year-old woman whose life savings were wiped out by nursing home bills Medicare wouldn’t pay.

2013 Medicare Drug Plan Premiums Will Be Similar To This Year — On Average
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, August 7
Premiums for private Medicare prescription drug plans will be about the same in 2013 as they have been over the past two years, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

JULY

Tennessee Cuts Medicaid Benefit Funding For Some Long-Term Care Patients
By Guy Gugliotta, July 29
The program, designed to save the state money, is the first of its kind because it creates a new category for patients who don’t qualify for nursing home care.

Medicare IDs Few Hospitals As Outliers in Readmissions
By Jordan Rau, July 23
Despite several years of concerted efforts, hospital readmission rates aren’t dropping, the latest Medicare data show.

Hospitals Readmissions Rates Not Budging
By Jordan Rau, July 19
Medicare data show little improvement in curbing the number of beneficiaries who are readmitted despite threats of financial penalties to hospitals.

Safety Net Hospitals Could Lose Money In Medicare Changes, Study Warns
By Jordan Rau, July 16
Tying reimbursement rates to patient experience ratings may add to the financial troubles of hospitals serving the poor.

Report: Nation Isn’t Ready To Meet Elderly Patients’ Mental Care Needs
By Christian Torres, July 10
A continued lack of specialists and other trained providers including primary care physicians and nurses will likely make it difficult for aging patients to receive treatment for depression, dementia and other conditions.

JUNE

After The Ruling: A Consumer’s Guide
By Mary Agnes Carey, June 28
The law contains a number of provisions that are changing the rules of health care for consumers.

What’s At Stake For Medicare Beneficiaries In Supreme Court Decision
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, June 19
If the Supreme Court strikes down the health law, 49 million Medicare beneficiaries could lose a variety of benefits that have already kicked in.

Q&A: How Are Retired Military Personnel Affected By The Health Law?
By Michelle Andrews, June 14
KHN’s “Insuring Your Health” columnist Michelle Andrews answers that question from a reader, noting that the Affordable Care Act does affect some retired members of the military over age 65.

Medicare Drug Discounts At Risk If Court Strikes Health Law
By Susan Jaffe, June 12
The pharmaceutical industry agreed in the health debate to reduce brand-name drug costs by 50 percent for Medicare beneficiaries who reach the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole.

Seniors Missing Out On Some New Medicare Benefits
By Phil Galewitz, June 11
Compared to other states, Hawaii has a low percentage of Medicare beneficiaries that use the preventive services provided under the health care law.

Tom Scully: Even If Health Law Survives Court Challenge, Congress Could Delay Timetable
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, June 11
Thomas Scully, who ran Medicare and Medicaid under President George W. Bush, believes that the 2014 implementation of the health law will have to be delayed, even if the Supreme Court upholds it.

Vladeck: Deaths Will Increase If SCOTUS Strikes Health Law Down
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, June 10
Bruce Vladeck, who ran Medicare and Medicaid under President Clinton, forecasts “chaos” in the health care delivery system if the Supreme Court strikes down the health law. Killing the law would “save a fortune” for the government, but at the expense of “gutting Medicaid,” says Vladeck, now a hospital consultant.

To Curb Spending On Elderly, Hospitals Try New Business Models
By David Schultz, June 4
Medicare’s spiraling costs are inspiring doctors, researchers and hospital administrators to conjure outside-the-box business models that could rein in spending.

Study: Hospital Observation Stays Increase 25 Percent in 3 Years
By Susan Jaffe, June 4
The number of Medicare patients who enter the hospital for observation rose dramatically even though the program’s enrollment and hospital admissions declined slightly, according to a study by gerontologists at Brown University.

MAY

Ex-Medicare Administrator: Premium Support “Is Going To Have To Happen”
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, May 31
Former CMS administrator Thomas Scully urges both political parties to take a second look at the premium support model for overhauling Medicare.

Some Patients Can Choose To Be Hospitalized At Home
By Judith Graham, May 29
Hospital at home” programs fundamentally refashion care for chronically ill patients who have acute medical problems — testing traditional notions of how services should be delivered when people become seriously ill.

Louisville’s Strategy For The Future: Stick With The Old Folks
By Frank Browning, May 27
The Kentucky city hosts the largest concentration of nursing-home and extended-care companies in the world.

Mass. Senate Skirts End-of-Life Counseling Controversy
By Martha Bebinger, WBUR, May 24
Bay State legislators avoided the minefield around the subject that continues to come up in Washington, where the phrase “death panels” evokes strong feelings.

States Encounter Obstacles Moving Elderly And Disabled Into Community
By Jenni Bergal, May 24
Some states are moving much faster than others in getting people out of nursing homes and institutions as part of an ambitious federal program.

Second Guessing Medicare’s Star Rating System
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, May 20
Supporters say the bonus system is improving care for millions of seniors, while critics argue it can be a clumsy measure of value and rewards mediocre patient care.

Obama Administration: A Plan To Prevent Alzheimer’s By 2025
By Christian Torres, May 15
The Obama administration is moving forward with an ambitious, fast-moving agenda to improve the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and unlock a method to prevent it by 2025.

Medicare Spotlights Hospitals With Especially Costly Patients
By Jordan Rau, May 9
The new data, which include beneficiaries’ bills in the hospital and for 30 days afterward, are a first step toward using bonuses and penalties to encourage more efficient care.

FAQ: Obama v. Ryan On Contributing Federal Medicare Spending
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, May 3
Questions and answers about the Democratic and Republican approaches to moderating spending on the popular program, which covers 47 million seniors and disabled people.

Analysis: ACOs Could Have The Medicare Muscle To Transform Health System
By Michael L. Millenson, May 2
Accountable care organizations will confront questions, including whether this new model for delivering medical treatment has the muscle to overcome the system’s entrenched incentives.

Advocates Worry States Are Moving Too Fast On Dual Eligibles
By Sarah Barr, May 1
Some states plan to test new ways to care for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

APRIL

$18 For A Baby Aspirin? Hospitals Hike Costs For Everyday Drugs For Some Patients
By Susan Jaffe, April 30
Seniors who are not admitted to the hospital – but are there under observational care – can sometimes face startling drug expenses.

Respite Programs For Family Caregivers Face Cuts Despite Growing Need
By Jessica Marcy, April 26
As states face tough budget decisions, such programs are increasingly on the chopping block.

Health On The Hill: Competing Prescriptions For Medicare’s Financial Health
April 25
KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey and Marilyn Werber Serafini join Jackie Judd to preview this week’s House hearings on Medicare and to dig into the details of the Medicare trustees’ report.

Medicare To Add Hospital Efficiency, Patient Safety To Payment Formula
By Jordan Rau, April 24
Medicare is proposing a significant change in how it decides on hospital reimbursements, adding two measures of patient safety and a financial assessment of whether hospitals are careful stewards of Medicare’s money.

Poll: Doctors Fall Short In Helping Many Seniors
By Judith Graham, April 24
Large numbers of seniors aren’t receiving recommended interventions that could help forestall medical problems and improve their health, according to a survey from the John A. Hartford Foundation.

Trustees Issue Warnings On Medicare, But Make No Changes To Solvency Projections
By Marilyn Werber Serafini and Phil Galewitz, April 23
Trustees of the Medicare program today forecast increased financial troubles as a result of an aging population and rising health care costs, raising the visibility of an issue that is already proving divisive in the 2012 presidential and Congressional campaigns.

First Green House Project Nursing Home Aids Low-Income Seniors
By Shefali S. Kulkarni, April 20
What was once a novel idea for long-term care for the elderly — small, homey facilities of 10 to 12 residents each — is now a model cropping up around the country.

Medicare To Tie Doctors’ Pay To Quality, Cost Of Care
By Jordan Rau, April 15
A little-noticed provision of the health law calls for increasing reimbursements to doctors who provide quality care at lower cost and reducing payments to physicians who run up costs without better results.

Q&A: Navigating Options For Long Term Care
By Michelle Andrews, April 11
There are many restrictions on purchasing long-term care insurance. Michelle Andrews answers a reader question about other options.

ACOs Multiply As Medicare Announces 27 New Ones
By Jenny Gold and Christian Torres, April 10
A key provision of the health law supports the creation of organizations intended to improve quality of care and to restrain rising costs.

Say What? Most Insurance Covers Little Of The Cost Of Hearing Aids
By Michelle Andrews, April 9
These devices can easily run thousands of dollars, but Medicare doesn’t pay anything, and other policies generally have limited reimbursements. One insurer is offering a low-cost program to help.

Medicare Now Covers Annual Screening For Depression
By Michelle Andrews, April 3
The coverage change could help focus doctors and patients on mental health issues, which often go undiagnosed in the elderly, especially those who are dealing with multiple chronic physical problems.

Revamping Medicare: A Guide To The Proposals, Politics And Timeline
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, April 3
Competing ideas and election-year politics will thwart major legislation in 2012, but look for budgetary action at year’s end.

MARCH

Effort To Pay Hospitals Based On Quality Didn’t Cut Death Rates, Study Finds
By Jordan Rau, March 28
The New England Journal of Medicine reports that a test project – which inspired part of the federal health law – had no effect on mortality.

The IPAB: The Center Of A Political Clash Over How To Change Medicare
By Bara Vaida, March 22
A panel established by the health law to rein in Medicare spending is the target of a House GOP effort to begin dismantling the 2010 health law.

AARP Arming For Medicare Battle
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, March 19
Against a backdrop of proposals to overhaul the popular social insurance program and a presidential campaign likely to address entitlement spending, the seniors group is mobilizing.

Connecticut Weighs Its ‘Nurses Only’ Medication Policy For Homebound Seniors
By Jeff Cohen, WNPR, March 13
Gov. Malloy has proposed letting supervised home health aides give medication to Medicaid patients.

Winners And Losers In Medicare Advantage Extras: Avalere Report
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, March 12
Medicare beneficiaries in private health plans throughout the country get significantly different levels of extra benefits, and that disparity will continue with the implementation of the 2010 health law.

Oregon Emphasizes Choices At Life’s End
By Kristian Foden-Vencil, Oregon Public Broadcasting, March 8
The state has been at the forefront of trying to make sure a person has as much control over the end of life as possible with a detailed directive that has been adopted by 14 other states.

Medicare Combats Fraud With Billing Statements That Beneficiaries Can Understand
By Susan Jaffe, March 7
New consumer-friendly statements urge seniors to report suspicious charges and make it easier to appeal denials of coverage.

The Parent Trap: Adult Children Care for Elderly Parents
By Marilyn Werber Serafini, March 1
Meet members of the sandwich generation: raising children, dealing with elderly parents and their care — and sometimes feeling like they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.

FEBRUARY

Advice On Growing Old And Living Well In An Overtreated Society
By Judith Graham, February 21
Dr. Nortin Hadler argues in a new book that older Americans need to be more aggressive about challenging doctors on prescribed procedures. “People should want to know the likelihood that death will be postponed by doing something,” he says.

Experts Question Medicare’s Effort To Rate Hospitals’ Patient Safety Records
By Jordan Rau, February 13
The new data identify many major teaching institutions as having high rates of serious complications. But officials say the measures are faulty.

Medicare Data Show Variation In ‘Central Line’ Infection Rates Across States
By Jordan Rau, February 9
Across the country, one in six hospitals has high rates of one of the most serious kinds of preventable infections — those caused by catheters inserted into large veins, according to new data published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

JANUARY

Different Takes: The National Plan To Address Alzheimer’s Disease
January 31
Kaiser Health News talked to two experts about current efforts to craft a national plan to overcome Alzheimer’s disease.

Calculating A Long-Term Care Policy: Will It Cover Your Needs, Can You Pay For It And Can You Afford Not To Have It?
By Caroline E. Mayer, January 23
The coverage is expensive and often restrictive, but it offers vital protection and flexibility for some consumers facing a nursing home stay.