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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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AARP, state offering information sessions on health reform

Political opportunism and the complexity of federal health care reform legislation have confused many seniors regarding the merits of the plan, according to AARP, which has launched a series of information sessions around Washington state. It’s been a year since the landmark legislation passed and yet the debate still rages, even as preparations are being made for the major changes that take root by 2014.

Toss health care law, says Rep. McMorris Rogers

SEATTLE – As Washington and other states adopt laws and adapt programs to prepare for federal health care reforms, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers argued Tuesday that may not be the best course of action. “We need to repeal the entire law and start over,” she told a conference on health care reform sponsored by a conservative think tank, the Washington Policy Center.

Medicaid bill would shift control

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., this week introduced a Republican proposal touted as a way to corral Medicaid spending by giving states more say in who qualifies and who doesn’t. Medicaid, an entitlement program that helps pay the medical bills of millions of poor and disabled people, has grown in scope and expense.

Budget talk, from soup to nuts

Oh no! He’s back with another number-infested column about that most scintillating of topics: the federal budget. Bet his idea of a good time is a bowl of soup and an evening with C-SPAN. You know, I could do a Charlie Sheen-like rant, but I see that his road show was just canceled. So I figure America is finally coming to its senses and is ready for a serious discussion.

Obama wants Medicare changes, tax increases

Forcefully rejecting Republican budget-cutting plans, President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed lowering the nation's future deficits by $4 trillion over a dozen years and vowed he would not allow benefit cuts for the poor and the elderly to pay for tax breaks for the rich.

Congress’ curious budget recipe

In case you hadn’t noticed, Congress isn’t like the rest of the world. For instance: 1. Should households facing large bills work on ways to bring in less money?

Letter details targeted cuts to Medicaid services

Thousands of Washington’s poorest residents will receive a letter early next month informing them that they will lose health care services in the coming year as the state cuts Medicaid spending. The “Dear Client” letter from the Medicaid Purchasing Administration says “optional” programs such as dental care, hearing devices and hospice care will be eliminated Jan. 1 as a result of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s order in September cutting state spending 6.3 percent to compensate for an expected $1.4 billion budget shortfall through June 2011.

Care oversight office loses funding

The future of the state office charged with protecting the rights of residents of nursing homes and assisted-living centers is in doubt after officials learned it will lose a third of its funding. The state long-term care ombudsman’s office was informed last month that the federal Medicaid funding it has received since expanding the program statewide in 1996 would no longer be available after Dec. 31.

Ambulance ride turns costly for north Spokane man

Howard Hickman never had a problem with his health insurance coverage. The retired Union Pacific employee and Navy veteran said he has 100 percent coverage rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs and health insurance through Union Pacific. And he has Medicare. So he was quite surprised when American Medical Response, an ambulance company based in Modesto, Calif., threatened to send him to collection over his last ambulance ride.

Social Security, Medicare woes still loom large

WASHINGTON – Social Security and Medicare continue to face grave financial challenges even though the new health care law may provide added stability to the two massive programs, according to the government’s annual review. This year, for the first time since 1983, Social Security is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes.

Physicians Clinic, federal government settle

A group of Spokane doctors has agreed to pay $656,000 to the federal government to settle an investigation into Medicare overbilling. No charges were filed against doctors or the Physicians Clinic of Spokane in the 2 1/2-year investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington.

The high cost of living

Jim Sinnott survived Pearl Harbor, joined his nation in picking up the pieces of that shattered day and helped his generation forge a more secure world for the next. Japanese dive bombers couldn’t stop the Navy radioman in 1941, but Parkinson’s disease is catching up with him nearly 69 years later.

Medicare add-ons costlier

WASHINGTON – Millions of seniors who signed up for popular private health plans through Medicare are facing sharp premium increases this year – another sign that spiraling costs are a problem even for those with solid insurance. A study released Friday by a major consulting firm found that premiums for Medicare Advantage plans offering medical and prescription drug coverage jumped 14.2 percent on average in 2010, after an increase of only 5.2 percent the previous year. Some 8.5 million elderly and disabled Americans are in the plans, which provide more comprehensive coverage than traditional Medicare, often at lower cost.

Seniors take on Medicare scams

MIAMI – The first box that arrived at Shirley Shupp’s door was filled with braces to help with her arthritis. Then came a motorized scooter, just like the one the 69-year-old already owned. She hadn’t asked for any of it – but Medicare was apparently footing the bill. “There was just something that wasn’t right about it,” the Houston woman said.

Many seniors may be paying too much for drugs

Seniors have until the end of the year to switch Medicare drug plans to get a better deal. But many will pass up the chance to save hundreds of dollars a year in prescription costs. The reason: With dozens of drug plans on the market, many seniors get overwhelmed at the prospect of changing plans, even if a different one would better suit their needs and lower their costs.

Medicare patients can expect changes in health care access

WASHINGTON – While the Democrats’ health care bill would represent an unprecedented expansion in access to insurance, the effects on existing government insurance programs are less clear. At the heart of the Senate debate are reductions in Medicare spending, one of the main ways Democrats have kept the total cost of the bill down. Republicans charge that change will reduce access to care as well as the benefits Medicare provides. Democrats counter that guaranteed benefits are still mandated.