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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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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.

House fights cutting Medicare payments

WASHINGTON – The Democratic-controlled House voted Thursday to add more than $200 billion to the deficit to prevent steep Medicare payment cuts to doctors, a move Republicans denounced as a political payoff. The measure, approved on a near party-line vote of 243 to 183, is a top priority for the American Medical Association. The GOP contended that Democrats supported the bill to thank the doctors group for backing President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Medicare savings questioned

WASHINGTON – A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending – one of the biggest sources of funding for President Barack Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health care system – would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation released Saturday. The report, requested by House Republicans, found that Medicare cuts contained in the health package approved by the House on Nov. 7 are likely to prove so costly to hospitals and nursing homes that they could stop taking Medicare altogether.

Medicare’s shortcomings have some seeking revamp

About a month ago, Nita Jensen visited the Rockwood Clinic to make an appointment for a physical. Her physician there had just retired, and she wanted to find a new doctor at the clinic near her South Hill home. Covered by a Medicare Advantage plan, the 88-year-old didn’t expect any hassles. So when the receptionist told her the clinic was not accepting new Medicare patients, Jensen was taken aback.

Patients find disadvantage to private Medicare plans

MIAMI – Cecile Sangiamo liked her health insurance – until she needed to use it. The 72-year-old Clearwater, Fla., resident had been on the federally subsidized, privately run Medicare Advantage policy through WellCare Inc. for about three years when she started having pain that made it hard to walk.

Editorial: Hinge pay on outcomes to trim cost of Medicare

It has come to the attention of Congress that comprehensive health care reform will be expensive. Expensive enough – $1 trillion or more – to dash President Barack Obama’s and federal lawmakers’ hopes of enacting legislation this year. One objective of health care reform is to curtail the cost, of course. But extending access to some 50 million more people is a big upfront expense, complicated by a shortage of primary care physicians.

Obama promises reform of entitlement programs

WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama pledged Thursday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare “bargain” with the American people, saying that the nation’s long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs. That discussion will begin next month, Obama said, when he convenes a “fiscal responsibility summit” before delivering his first budget to Congress. He said his administration will begin confronting the issues of entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it jump-starts job growth and the stock market.

Medicare gap has patients, lawmakers calling for reform

WASHINGTON – Master toolmaker John McClain built machine parts with details so small they couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. Then a lump on his neck turned out to be cancer. Shalonda Frederick managed a bakery and decorated cakes for special occasions. One day her face, hands, arms and legs started clenching up. Then she fell off a ladder at work. She had multiple sclerosis.

Medicare May Go Out With A Boom

For a few weeks, it seemed as though both parties could hardly wait to bundle the Medicare crisis off to the political safety and obscurity of a bipartisan commission. Then came partisan second thoughts. Republicans wanted to force the president to propose cuts rather than let him off the hook. Democrats began to see it as more to their advantage to do a relatively easy, short-term fix of the immediate crunch - the bankruptcy of the hospital trust fund in 2001 - putting off the vastly larger problem that looms when the baby boomersbegin to turn 65 in 2011.