KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Will More Availability Of Some Medicare Therapies Spark A Budget Crisis?

Politico looks at how making some therapies more widely available to Medicare recipients -- as one lawsuit is asking for -- could strain the program's budget. In addition, The Associated Press examines Medicare records to find that monitoring some kidney cancer patients instead of operating could improve their chances to live.

Politico: Broader Therapies Could Further Strain Medicare
A lawsuit may have lit the fuse on a budgetary time bomb in Medicare, even though it simply reaffirms what should be a routine payment policy for services like physical therapy that the massive federal health care program has always had. People on Medicare are entitled to various kinds of rehab and therapeutic services -- occupational or speech therapy, for instance. But over the past 30 years or so, the coverage became spotty. Some people were able to get that care only if it could help them get better -- not if it was aimed at keeping them stable or slowing a predictable decline. That became known as the "improvement standard." The care was only for those who would improve (Norman, 2/13).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Study Questions Kidney Cancer Treatment In Elderly
In a stunning example of when treatment might be worse than the disease, a large review of Medicare records finds that older people with small kidney tumors were much less likely to die over the next five years if doctors monitored them instead of operating right away (2/12).

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