Inside these posts: Medicare

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Audit shows Medicare violated Viagra ban

Bloomberg News | A U.S. audit shows that Medicare spent some $3 million on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs in 2007 and 2008. The purchases violate a 2005 ban on covering some drugs for the elderly.

Blue Cross out-of-network costs rising

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois health plan members are facing higher out-of-pocket costs if they see a physician not in the health plan’s network under a new doctor payment system being rolled out by its parent company.

Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp., the nation’s fourth-largest health plan, has begun basing its doctor fee schedules on the lower rates paid by the Medicare health insurance plan for the elderly. Exactly how much more a patient will pay for out-of-network will vary. But the AMA said Medicare rates are often 20 percent below the cost of providing medical-care. Get the full story »

State Farm retirees lose some medical coverage

Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance Cos. will stop providing supplemental medical coverage for its Medicare-eligible retirees next year in a cost-cutting move.

The company says it will instead help them find supplemental Medicare coverage and provide them with $200 a month to help. About 18,000 of the company’s 27,800 retirees are Medicare-eligible. Get the full story »

Illinois Blue Cross, hospitals target re-admissions

Reducing costly re-admissions to hospitals is the goal of a new initiative being rolled out this year by Illinois’ largest health insurer and the state’s hospital lobby.

By 2014, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and the Illinois Hospital Association say they hope to reduce re-admissions by 33 percent. In 2009 there were more than 50,000 re-admissions to the approximately 200 hospitals in the state. Get the full story »

Record $2.5B recovered from Medicare fraud

The federal government recovered a record total of more than $2.5 billion from health care fraud last year, according to a government report issued Monday.

Results reflect both the continuing array of efforts to swindle the government Medicare program and a stepped-up effort by law enforcement to combat them, officials said. Get the full story »

Abbott settles inflated drug price case with feds

Abbott Laboratories and two other drugmakers will pay $421 million to settle allegations that they falsely inflated product prices to gain larger government reimbursement payments, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.

Abbott’s share of the settlement is $126.5 million for violations of the False Claims Act involving pricing of two antibiotics and agents used to facilitate intravenous infusions of other drugs, the Justice Department said. Get the full story »

Abbott Labs hired cardiologist barred from hospital

Abbott Laboratories hired a Baltimore-area cardiologist as a sales consultant after he was barred from practicing at a local hospital last year for allegedly putting heart stents in hundreds of patients who didn’t need them, say Senate investigators probing the medical-device industry.

Their report, to be released Monday, shines a light on one of the most lucrative procedures for hospitals and medical-device makers, at a time of spiraling health-care costs. Medicare paid some $25.7 billion for stent surgery in the six years through 2009, according to the report. Get the full story »

Congress puts off cuts to doctor Medicare payments

Congress has agreed to a one-month delay in Medicare payment cuts to doctors, giving a short-term reprieve to a looming crisis over treatment of the nation’s elderly.
Get the full story »

Deficit plan targets Social Security, tax breaks

Leaders of President Barack Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission on Wednesday proposed reducing the annual cost-of-living increases in Social Security, part of a bold plan to control $1 trillion-plus budget deficits.

The proposal also would set a tough target for curbing the growth of Medicare and recommends looking at eliminating popular tax breaks, such as mortgage interest deduction. Get the full story »

Doctors urge Congress to halt Medicare pay cuts

The American Medical Association unleashed its latest salvo Monday in its campaign against cuts in Medicare payments to doctors with a survey that finds overwhelming concern among Americans.

The physician’s group did an online survey of 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older and found 94 percent of them said they are concerned about the cuts to doctors who treat elderly patients.

The group released the findings at a meeting in San Diego to kick off a new advertising and lobbying push to convince lawmakers to block payment cuts — set to take effect Dec. 1 — before they recess for the Thanksgiving holiday later this month. Get the full story »

AMA exec says Medicare cuts will be ‘catastrophic’

The president of the nation’s largest doctors’ group says upcoming cuts in Medicare physician payments will be catastrophic for seniors. Dr. Cecil Wilson, president of the American Medical Association, says Medicare payments will drop by more than 20 percent by January unless Congress takes quick action. Get the full story »

10% hikes seen in Medicare drug coverage next year

A new analysis of government data finds that millions of seniors face double-digit hikes in their Medicare prescription premiums next year unless they shop for cheaper coverage. Get the full story »

Premiums for Medicare Advantage drop 1%

Seniors enrolled in popular private health insurance plans through Medicare will pay a little less on average next year, the Obama administration said Tuesday.

The average monthly premium in so-called Medicare Advantage plans will dip to $35.69 in 2011, a 45-cent reduction from $36.14 this year, Medicare officials said.

Rush, 6 doctors named in whistleblower suit

A group of doctors at Rush University Medical Center’s prestigious orthopedic department routinely overbooked their schedules and relied heavily on residents to perform surgeries, violating federal Medicare billing rules, according to a newly unsealed whistle-blower lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The suit alleges that in one instance, a surgeon never entered the operating room to supervise a procedure. In others, a surgeon monitored residents performing operations via video feed while simultaneously performing his own operations in nearby rooms.

Unemployment extension fails for 3rd time

A Democratic plan to provide additional aid to jobless workers, businesses and cash-strapped states and raise taxes on investment fund managers failed in the U.S. Senate.

The bill, which also would have provided more aid to cash-strapped states for the Medicaid health program for the poor, fell a few votes short of the 60 needed to advance in the 100-member Senate. One Democrat, Ben Nelson, joined 40 Republicans to block the measure. Get the full story »