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Shopping for a Medicare Advantage Plan — Once Again!

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 15, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

I have just done something I said I would never do: shop for a Medicare Advantage plan to cover my gaps in Medicare. The usual flyers and brochures from sellers of Medicare Advantage plans began to arrive in the mail with their enticing sales pitches, and one nearly fooled me. Short of having a Medicare representative on the phone, you're stuck in an information swamp. No wonder studies show that beneficiaries are not eager to shop around even if they can get a new policy with a smaller monthly premium...

Home Health, Palliative Care, Hospice: What's the Difference and Who Needs Them?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 6, 2014 | Janet Bollig

I recently spoke with a gentleman with a significant illness whose main goal is to stay home. He decided to utilize our skilled home health services and home medical equipment. Over time, he transitioned into our palliative care program and currently is in our hospice program. Here is information on what these services are and who may benefit from them...

Another Strategy in the Health Care Reimbursement Game

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 17, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

American health care has become a gigantic game board with players of all sorts strategizing to win. Winning, of course, means getting more money from payers...

Seeing the Government's Star Ratings Is One Thing, Believing Them Is Another

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 9, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Just a few years ago it seemed that advocates for health care transparency had scored a big victory. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they would rate nursing homes by awarding five stars to the best and fewer stars to lower-quality facilities. It turns out, though, that five-star nursing homes may not be delivering five-star quality...

Seniors Face Barriers to Critical Dental Care

HBNS STORY | August 26, 2014

Poor oral health can have a negative impact on seniors’ overall health and well-being, but for many, there are significant barriers to visiting a dentist, finds a new report in the American Journal of Health Behavior.

An Advantage for Medicare Patients or Just for Health Plans?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 20, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

That the government overpays sellers of Medicare Advantage plans is well known in Beltway circles, even if much of the public remains unaware…

Medicare Changes Lower Hospital Use

HBNS STORY | August 5, 2014

A recent study in Health Services Research based on 15 years of hospital data suggests that cuts in Medicare prices under the Affordable Care Act may slow the growth in overall hospital spending.

Patient-Centered Medical Homes Reduce Costs

HBNS STORY | July 31, 2014

As the number of patient centered medical homes has increased, a new report in the journal Health Services Research finds the model offers a promising option to reduce health care costs and utilization of some health care services.

On Each Other's Team: What We Can Learn by Listening to Older Adults

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 10, 2014 | Chris Langston

If there is a population in which we have the biggest opportunity to see improvements in both cost and quality of care outcomes, it is older Americans. The debate on how best to deliver effective primary care has gone on a long time, sometimes frustratingly so, but it has almost never included a crucial constituency: older adults. The John A. Hartford Foundation is pleased to help change that...

A Phone Call from a Pharmacist Can Reduce Some Hospital Admissions

HBNS STORY | April 10, 2014

Pharmacist-patient telephone consultations appear to reduce hospitalizations in patients who are least at risk, finds a new study in Health Services Research.

'Me' Versus 'We' in Obamacare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 25, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

The Obama administration and Affordable Care Act supporters have not bothered to explain how the law includes cross-subsidization, missing an opportunity to talk about the "we" aspects of the law. As one 58-year-old woman put it: "The chances of me having a child at this age is zero. Why do I have to pay an additional $5,000 a year for coverage that I will never, ever need?" Here's how it works...

Backlash Against Narrow Provider Networks Begins

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 18, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Seniors are starting to realize that fewer doctors and hospitals may be available to them if they select a Medicare Advantage plan. Restricting these choices – in theory – is a way to control the price of health care. There's just one problem: Consumers still want to choose their doctors or stick with the ones they've got...

Why Low-Income Seniors Fail to Get Help Paying for Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 11, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

A couple weeks ago, the Medicare Rights Center, a well-known New York-based advocacy group, released a report card showing that seniors on Medicare are struggling to pay for their health care. This finding brings up an important question: Why aren't seniors using the variety of state and federal programs that have been set up to help people in this situation?

Do Patients Care How Much Money Their Doctors Make?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 28, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

I am all for transparency when it comes to health care. So when Medicare announced a few weeks ago that it would begin to tell the public how much doctors are paid to treat Medicare patients, my first thought was "hooray." Still, I keep returning to the question: What will the data do for the average person?...

Hospitals Serving Elderly Poor More Likely to Be Penalized for Readmissions

HBNS STORY | January 7, 2014

Hospitals that treat more poor seniors who are on both Medicaid and Medicare tend to have higher rates of readmissions, triggering costly penalties, finds a new study in Health Services Research.

Lack of Access Still to Blame

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 7, 2014 | CFAH Staff

What's the key to reducing costly emergency room visits and readmissions? People who lack convenient access to a health care provider, with or without insurance, return to the emergency department or hospital out of need and desperation...

Advice for People New to Health Insurance (Part 4): How Much Will Health Care Services Cost?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 26, 2013 | CFAH Staff

In part four of our series, we look at a few ways to estimate the cost of your care ahead of time so you can make the best choice for you and your loved ones. Our 'Be a Prepared Patient' resources offer trusted websites and tips to get started...

Advice for People New to Health Insurance (Part 2): Medicare and Medicaid Explained

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 24, 2013 | CFAH Staff

In part two of our series, we look at the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. Our 'Be a Prepared Patient' resources can help you figure out if you qualify for either of these or other special health care programs...

What I Expect From the Medicare Program

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 16, 2013 | Jeff Goldsmith

After half a lifetime of following the Medicare program, on October 1, 2013, I became a Medicare beneficiary. I'm part of the leading edge of baby boomers joining the program, ten thousand a day. Here are some reflections upon joining...

A Better Health System for Frail and Disabled Elders

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 9, 2013 | Ken Covinsky

Let's stop telling the public that exercising and eating blueberries are guarantees for avoiding frailty and disability. Let's start talking about how to maintain our quality of life as we age and inevitably encounter health problems.

Getting Health Insurance


Don’t have health insurance? Here’s advice on how to find the right insurance for your needs.

Health Insurance: Glossary of Common Terms


Don’t know a deductible from a premium? Here’s a helpful guide to health insurance terms.

What Are Medicare and Medicaid?


Learn more about the U.S. government’s health insurance programs for older adults and people with low-incomes and resources.

Handling an Insurance Dispute


What to do if your health insurance denies you coverage for a procedure.

Women in Appalachia Have Higher Rates of Late Stage Breast Cancer

HBNS STORY | September 26, 2013

Older women living in the most deprived areas of the U.S. Appalachia had higher rates of late stage breast cancer than women in more affluent areas, finds a new study in Health Services Research.

Political Football Season Starts for Medicare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 28, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

It’s the silly season again for Medicare. It comes around whenever a political campaign is about to begin as it is for next year’s mid-term elections….Politicians love to play ball with benefits for seniors.

Is “Guaranteed Coverage for Life” in the Cards for Medicare Seniors?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 1, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

A few days ago, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield sent me one of those Medigap sales brochures that seniors usually expect during the fall open enrollment season.

Making Seniors on Medicare Have More Skin in the Game

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 26, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

The movement is growing, it seems, for making people who rely on Medicare have more skin-in-the-game. In the minds of some, seniors and the disabled pay too little for their health care and their Medicare benefits…

Pay for Your Health Care


Seek insurance and manage the worrisome chores of arranging and paying for care.

The Government Wants Seniors Out of Bad Medicare Plans

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 5, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Even though open enrollment closes this week for some 47 million seniors who can change their Medicare coverage arrangements for next year, the federal government is extending the deadline for certain people. Who are the lucky ones?

Trolling for Insurance Prospects on Twitter

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 18, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Selling health insurance on Twitter? Yes indeed. Not long ago a simple tweet about a blog called Medicare Made Clear alerted me to this new way to find sales prospects for Medicare Advantage Plans and Medigap policies

More Confusion about Those Insurance EOBs. This Time from Medicare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 6, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

People have a right to receive in plain language a summary of what doctors bill, what insurers pay and how much they themselves must pay.

'Death Panels': Beliefs and Disbeliefs in Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 23, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Virginia was particularly concerned that she would not get medical treatment after she turns 75. She had heard at that age, 'they send you a letter. They are going to start sending you literature on death.'

Medicare Games: When Is a Stay in the Hospital Really a Stay?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 21, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

If you or a family member is on Medicare, you would assume that if they are in the hospital their care would be covered under Medicare's Part A hospital benefit. Right? Well, not always.

What Consumers Don't Know About Their Health Insurance

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 7, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

On a chilly New York day, a sales agent for UnitedHealthcare stood on a noisy street corner in Spanish Harlem pushing Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. He was engaging in table marketing a way to snag new customers, converts from other MA plans, he hoped.

Who Gets Preventive Care?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 19, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Who doesn't think preventive health care is important? Probably nobody if you ask this question abstractly. But when it comes to getting it - well that's a different matter.

Turning 65: A Medicare Snafu

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 13, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

I didn't expect to write a sequel to my seven-part series about signing up for Medicare. Just when I thought I was on the program, and all was fine, it wasn't. After I submitted two bills for routine exams, I learned Medicare would not cover them as my primary carrier. That threw me into a tizzy. All my years of reporting about the program taught me that once you retire Medicare is primary.

Hit by the Fine Print: Three Ways the Debt Deal Could Hurt Seniors on Medicare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 2, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Medicare turned 46 last week, but instead of celebrating its major accomplishment ' keeping millions of older Americans healthy ' it finds itself under siege.

Turning 65: Medicare's Future and Me

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 14, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

I once thought that when I signed up for Medicare, I would never again have to worry about paying for health care. But I will. Medicare's future shape and substance is uncertain.

Turning 65: Making the Choice

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 21, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Even though I have written about Medicare for many years, it wasn't until I actually went through the process of selecting an option to cover Medicare's gaps that I realized seniors have an extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, task. You can't make a perfect decision because so much depends on your future medical needs and no one can predict those with certainty.

Turning 65: Finding a Medicare Advantage Plan

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 6, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Ah, those Medicare Advantage (MA) plans! The government can't seem to decide if it loves or hates them. On the one hand, when I tried to learn about my options, there was much more MA plan information available from the government than for traditional Medigap policies. So it seemed like I was being encouraged to select an MA plan.

Turning 65: Finding a Prescription Drug Plan

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 23, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

If I were to choose a Medigap policy to supplement my basic Medicare coverage, I would still have to buy a separate plan for prescription drugs, since Medigap sellers can't include drug benefits in those policies.

Medicare Spending Linked to Longer Life, Better Health in Elderly

HBNS STORY | May 23, 2011

Findings of a new study suggest that cutting Medicare spending across the board could result in poorer health outcomes for the elderly.

Turning 65: Finding a Medigap Policy

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 12, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

The first step after reading my collection of Medicare Advantage, prescription drug, and Medigap sales brochures was to find a way to fill in core Medicare coverage gaps'the deductibles for hospital stays and doctor care and the coinsurance for physician visits, lab tests, and hospital outpatient treatment that could really leave me with an unwelcome bill. I would have to pay 20 percent of those bills if I didn't have supplemental coverage.

Turning 65: The Sellers Were After Me

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 28, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Even before I officially signed up for Medicare, sellers of Medicare Advantage plans, prescription drug benefits and Medigap policies began stuffing my mailbox with marketing brochures and lead cards'the kind that ask for your name and address and tell you that a salesperson will call if you return the card. Since the first of the year, I have received five lead cards asking for personal information, four solicitations for Medicare Advantage plans, two for stand-alone drug plans and three for Medigap insurance.

Turning 65: It Was Time for Medicare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 11, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

This is the first in a series of posts that examine the process of signing up for Medicare, navigating its rules, choosing supplemental coverage and planning for health care in a program with a very uncertain future.

Selling Sickness

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 21, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Someone I know who is just over 65 received an unlikely solicitation'from The Scooter Store located in New Braunfels, Texas, on Independence Drive no less. The outside of the envelope promised a free personal mobility assessment. This person is totally mobile and hardly needs a scooter.

Inside Health Care: Are Patients 'Priceless?'

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 23, 2010 | CFAH Staff

An inside look at the cost of health care: a physician confused by the transparency of Medicare reimbursements and a patient in San Francisco unable to afford treatment for an enlarged prostate.

Assessing Risk: Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap vs. Drug Coverage Only

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 22, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

As Medicare's open enrollment season draws to a close, it's a good bet that seniors are still sifting through all those brochures and flyers that have come in the mail the last several weeks. My husband received 22. Here's a simple rule to make the sifting go a little faster.

Finding a Medigap Policy on the Web? Better Think Twice

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 10, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Oh, those clever insurance agents, always on the prowl for new customers. This time they are using the current period of open enrollment for Medicare to snag customers for other insurance products'products that consumers may not need or want.

The Medicare Sales Season Begins: As Always, Buyer Beware!

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 7, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

What Happens When an Insurance Company Misbehaves

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 12, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) took the rare step this spring of kicking Fox Insurance out of the Medicare Part D drug benefit program, it pretty much went unnoticed. CMS went after Fox, admittedly small fry in the pool of insurers, and said they couldn't sell any more stand-alone prescription drug plans to seniors These plans are the kind that people buy to complement Medigap policies that don't offer any drug coverage.

Is Choosing a Health Plan Like Buying a Car or Canned Goods?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 21, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Do consumers buy health insurance like they buy canned peas? Or should they? That's the big question market place advocates have been trying to answer now for more than a decade. The government and others have thrown gobs of money at this vexing problem trying to figure out the best combination of stars, bars and other symbols that will catch the shopper's eye.

Some Honesty about Medicare Advantage Plans, Please

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 11, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Obama administration officials and the president himself have been on the road selling the benefits of health reform.' The other day in Maryland the president was touting the $250 rebate sent this week to some three million Medicare beneficiaries whose prescription drug expenses have reached the infamous donut hole where there is no coverage.

Blacks, Hispanics Less Likely Eligible for Medicare Prescription Help

HBNS STORY | May 20, 2010

Not just about Mom and Dad's Health Insurance...

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 6, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

In the past two weeks I have visited two college campuses---one in Brooklyn and one in Wisconsin.' Large numbers of students turned out to hear about the new reform law and wanted to know what it meant for them.'

Medicare “Doughnut Hole” Causes Seniors to Skip Diabetes Meds

HBNS STORY | January 7, 2010