Today, July 30, we celebrate the 49th anniversary of one of the federal government’s most critical social insurance programs: Medicare. As the primary source of health coverage for 41 million older adults and 9 million people with disabilities, Medicare makes a huge difference in people’s lives and well-being. For the vast majority of beneficiaries, Medicare works well, and consumers are very satisfied with the health care they receive. But there is always room for improvement: Making it easier for low-income people to afford their out-of-pocket health care costs would make a good program even better.
Last week, Paul Ryan—House Budget Chairman and the likely incoming chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee—released a plan proposing the broad reform and streamlining of the nation’s safety net programs for the poor. Tellingly, the plan (an outline that is reportedly intended to portray a softer side of conservatism) sidesteps the budget proposals put forth by Ryan over the past four years that have actually been voted on and passed by the Republican-led House.
Early last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced a new initiative designed to support state efforts to improve the health of Medicaid beneficiaries and the care they receive.
As part of the Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program (IAP), the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) will develop new resources for and provide technical assistance to states engaged in efforts to reform their Medicaid programs. The IAP seeks to achieve the triple aim of better care, better health outcomes, and lower costs.
The evidence of Medicaid’s positive impact on hospitals is growing. A recent report from the Colorado Hospital Association found that hospitals in states that have expanded Medicaid are providing free care to fewer uninsured patients. Such care, also known as “charity care,” occurs when patients cannot pay their hospital bills, and represents a significant drain on hospital resources.
Two recent surveys (one released this week) are providing a first concrete look at how navigators and assisters helped millions of consumers enroll in affordable health coverage.
According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Tuesday, a corps of almost 30,000 navigators, assisters, and volunteers helped more than 10 million consumers enroll in the health insurance marketplace between October 2013 and April 2014.