Medicare: 2011 Updates and Innovations

If a senior parent in your family is on Medicare, or if a family member is an adult who will turn 65 in 2011, significant changes are coming in 2011 as a result of the healthcare overhaul. A total of 21 healthcare changes are supposed to be implemented, beginning January 1; however, a smaller number relate to Medicare. According to HealthWatch, a blog published on Capitol Hill as a part of The Hill newspaper, Republicans, with their newly won control of the House of Representatives, are expected to try to block or not fund some of these changes and Democrats will support the healthcare changes.

It will be interesting to see just how much Medicare recipients embrace the new changes and whether their experiences have an effect on the political situation. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Implementation Timeline, the following Medicare updates and innovations, with a potential to improve ease of access to medical care and prescription services, will occur in 2011. The descriptions are from the KFF timeline.  Click on the above Kaiser link to learn more.

  • Closing the Medicare Drug Coverage Gap – Requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide a 50% discount on brand-name prescriptions filled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap beginning in 2011 and begins phasing-in federal subsidies for generic prescriptions filled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap.
  • Medicare Payments for Primary Care – Provides a 10% Medicare bonus payment to physicians for primary care services; also, provides a 10% Medicare bonus payment to general surgeons practicing in health professional shortage areas. [The goal is to encourage primary care doctors to accept new Medicare patients.]
  • Medicare Prevention Benefits – Eliminates cost-sharing for Medicare-covered preventive services that are recommended (rated A or B) by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and waives the Medicare deductible for colorectal cancer screening tests; authorizes Medicare coverage for a personalized prevention plan, including a comprehensive health risk assessment.
  • New Center that Encourages Innovation – Creates the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to test new payment and delivery system models that reduce costs while maintaining or improving quality.

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