The Senior Citizens League Weekly Update for Week Ending October 11, 2019

The Senior Citizens League Weekly Update for Week Ending October 11, 2019

2020 Open Enrollment for Medicare starts Oct 15 - and ends Dec 7

Medicare health and drug plans can make changes each year—things like cost, coverage, and what providers and pharmacies are in their networks. October 15 to December 7 is when all people with Medicare can change their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year to better meet their needs.

People in a Medicare health or prescription drug plan should always review the materials their plans send them, like the “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) and “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC). If their plans are changing, they should make sure their plans will still meet their needs for the following year. If they’re satisfied that their current plans will meet their needs for next year and it’s still being offered, they don’t need to do anything.

You can get more information at 1-800- Medicare (633-4227)  or go to

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The Washington Post is one of the major newspapers in the nation.  This week the Post published an article based on information provided by TSCL.  Here, in part, is what the Post published:

The Social Security Administration said Thursday that the cost-of-living adjustment for 2020 will be 1.6 percent. The uptick falls in line with an estimate released last month by the nonpartisan Senior Citizens League but falls short of the 2.8 percent offered in 2019 and 2 percent in 2018.

 Next year’s 1.6 percent boost will raise the average retiree benefit of $1,460 by about $23.40 per month, according to Mary Johnson, a Social Security policy analyst at the Senior Citizens League. That amount is “a big drop from the $40.90 that people with that level of benefits received this year,” Johnson said when the group released its estimate.

… research by the Senior Citizens League showed that from January 2000 to January 2019, cost-of-living adjustments increased Social Security benefits by roughly 50 percent; however, costs and services frequently incurred by Social Security beneficiaries climbed more than 100 percent during the same period. Prescription drugs and fresh groceries, for example, have become far more expensive.

Furthermore, a study by the Senior Citizens League found that Social Security benefits have lost one-third of their buying power since 2000.

 “When a retiree’s actual costs climb faster than their [cost-of-living adjustment], the buying power of Social Security erodes,” the Senior Citizens League wrote in September.

 The Senior Citizens League is proud that the Washington Post uses us as its source for news about the Social Security COLA and we're proud to be the leading organization in America that is fighting to change the COLA formula so it more accurately reflects the costs that seniors face and will stop the erosion of Social Security benefits.

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Despite all the news from Washington centering on the impeachment investigation of President Trump, the House of Representatives is continuing its consideration of H.R. 3, Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019, which was recently introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and which we've reported on in recent legislative updates.  This week, the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate House Democratics, endorsed and called on Congress to take up a series of additional prescription drug pricing bills that, if taken up individually, which they believe could pass a Democratic-led House and a Republican-led Senate.

According to a press release put out by the coalition, the various bills are bipartisan and focuse on increasing competition in the generic drug market and increasing transparency in the drug pricing system.

“In this time of hyper-partisanship, the only way we can fully address real issues impacting the American people is to identify commonsense, bipartisan solutions that can be implemented into law,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy. “The rising cost of prescription drugs often forces hardworking families to choose between life-saving medications and putting food on the table. This is unacceptable. Congress must take an all-hands-on-deck approach in addressing this problem by taking up all legislation with a real potential to be implemented today.”

While some of the bills are technical in nature, here are a few of the most easily explained.

(Note: Health insurance providers often hire an outside company to handle price negotiations, insurance claims, and distribution of prescription drugs. Providers which use such pharmacy benefit managers include commercial health plans, self-insured employer plans, Medicare Part D plans, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and state government employee plans.)

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Later this month, CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) will – for the first time – display a consumer alert icon next to nursing homes that have been cited for incidents of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. By making this information accessible and understandable, CMS states that it is empowering consumers to make the right decisions for themselves and their loved ones.

Beginning October 23, 2019, the new alert icon will be added to the Nursing Home Compare website for facilities cited on inspection reports for one or both of the following: 1) abuse that led to harm of a resident within the past year; and 2) abuse that could have potentially led to harm of a resident in each of the last two years.

To ensure CMS is providing the latest information, the icon will be updated monthly, at the same time CMS inspection results are updated. This means consumers will not be forced to wait for CMS’s quarterly updates to see the latest -related information – and nursing homes will not be flagged for longer than necessary if their most recent inspections indicate they have remedied the issues that caused the citations for abuse or potential for abuse and no longer meet the criteria for the icon. This icon will supplement existing information, including the Nursing Home Five-Star Ratings, helping consumers develop a more complete understanding of a facility’s quality.

There are many factors that indicate a nursing home’s quality, and the Star Ratings may not capture some nuances. For example, a nursing home cited for an incident of abuse may have adequate staffing numbers and provide excellent dementia or rehabilitative care. Previously, consumers would clearly see this facility’s performance in these areas through the Star Ratings, but abuse complaint allegation information may not have been as clear. Under the CMS action announced this week, this facility would have an alert icon displayed, allowing consumers to see both its Star Ratings and the icon, helping them easily weigh the facility’s quality.

You can find the “Nursing Home Compare” website here: