Update for March 13, 2021

Update for March 13, 2021

Using Generic Drugs Could Save Billions of Dollars

A new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association says that the Medicare Part D program could have saved roughly $1.7 billion in 2017 if doctors and patients had actively opted for generic drugs instead of brand name drugs.

The study says the program would have saved $977 million that year if generics had been substituted for all the brand-name medicines requested by prescribers. Additionally, if Medicare patients had sought generics instead of brand-name drugs, Medicare Part D would have saved another $673 million.

As part of our continuing efforts to find ways to lower the costs of prescription drugs, TSCL supports the idea that people should ask their doctors if taking a generic is available and appropriate for their specific ailment.

While not all generics work the same or as well as brand name drugs, they do work much or most of the time and the savings would be enormous.

The conclusions of this study were echoed by a different study published in the medical journal Neurology.

Payments for neurologist-prescribed brand name, but not generic, drugs in Medicare Part D increased consistently and well above inflation from 2013-2017.

According to that study, during a recent five-year period, Medicare spending on hundreds of medicines to treat various neurologic conditions, such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, rose 50%, but the number of claims increased only 8%.

Consequently, Medicare spent $4 billion in 2013 but paid out $6 billion by 2017 for these treatments. In addition, neurology medicines, mostly those used to combat multiple sclerosis, accounted for more than 50% of total Medicare payments, despite representing just 4% of all claims filed.

The authors of the study concluded that unless the overall trend stabilizes or is reversed, or high cost-to-claim drugs are addressed, this trend will place an increasing burden on the neurologic Medicare budget.

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New Legislation Would Combat Scams Against Seniors’ Investments

While many seniors rely on Social Security for nearly all their retirement income, for others it is part but not all their retirement.  Those seniors have investments they rely on to generate the income they need in their retirement years.

However, according to a 2015 report, older Americans lose approximately $36.5 billion each year to financial scams and abuse, and these numbers are increasing as technology makes it easier for scammers to target older Americans. A 2016 survey from the Investor Protection Trust found that almost 1-in-5 seniors, approximately 7 million Americans, have reported being victims of exploitation.

New legislation, called the “National Senior Investor Initiative Act” or “Senior Security Act” (H.R. 1565), was introduced earlier this month with two Democrats and two Republicans as cosponsors.

Bloomberg News reports that the legislation would establish a task force on older investors at the Securities and Exchange Commission.  This Senior Investor Taskforce would be required to identify challenges such as the financial exploitation and cognitive decline of investors older than 65, and to consider whether rules issued by the SEC or securities self-regulatory organizations should be changed to benefit them.

The SEC chairman would appoint a director to lead the task force, which would include staff from several offices at the commission. Task force members would not receive additional compensation.

It would have to report to Congress every two years on regulatory and financial developments that affect older investors. Reports would have to include recommendations for possible regulatory or legislative action.

Within two years of enactment, the Government Accountability Office would report to Congress and the task force on the financial exploitation of older Americans, including the associated economic costs, contributing factors, unreported cases, and policy responses.

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Other Legislation Also Targets Scams and Fraud Against Seniors

Seniors are often targeted for their money or identity, commonly with fraudsters asking seniors to send a payment through gift cards, by wire transfer, credit card, or other predatory schemes. Retailers, financial services providers, and wire transfer companies have undertaken efforts to do their part to stop their customers, including seniors, from being scammed.

Fraud is so prevalent that prevention is only part of the solution.  One in 20 seniors in the U.S. is a target of fraud schemes. Yet, the National Adult Protective Services Association has found that only one in 44 seniors report that they are victims of a fraud scheme, suggesting seniors lack information on how to file a complaint.

A new fraud scheme designed to target seniors appears almost daily.  In many cases, seniors have watched their entire life savings disappear in scams that are specifically designed to target their assets.

Two new pieces of legislation in addition to H.R.1565 (see above) have been introduced to stop these kinds of scams.

The first is H.R. 446, the Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act.

This legislation would require the Federal Trade Commission to update its website to include a searchable database of scams targeting seniors.  It would have to work with media outlets and law enforcement to distribute the information.  The FTC also would be required to send Congress a report with policy recommendations to prevent scams targeting older individuals, especially during national emergencies.

The second bill is H.R. 1215, which would establish an office within the Federal Trade Commission and an outside advisory group to prevent fraud targeting seniors and to direct the Commission to include additional information in an annual report to Congress on fraud targeting seniors.

The Advisory Office would give seniors hope in recovering their assets. It would address the low reporting rates by directing the FTC to educate seniors, families, and caregivers about the process for contacting law enforcement after being targeted in a fraud scheme. It would direct FTC to help improve the nation’s fraud response efforts by reforming FTC’s complaint system as well as enhancing fraud surveillance through better coordination with law enforcement agencies.

The FTC Advisory Group would bring together relevant government agencies, consumer advocates, and industry representatives to collect and develop model educational materials for retailers, financial institutions, and wire transfer companies to use in preventing scams on seniors. The FTC would coordinate efforts to educate the public and even the employees of key industries who often find themselves on the front lines of anti-scamming activities.

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New Legislation to Stop Looming Cuts to Medicare Urgently Needed

Now that Congress has passed President Biden’s Covid-19 relief bill it must turn its attention immediately to passing legislation to delay billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare.

The pending cuts are due to a rule, the PAYGO Act, which was passed in 2010 and which corrects for additions to the federal deficit by automatically cutting funding from certain departments and programs.

If Congress does not pass the new legislation, there will be a 2% cut starting April 1 and then a 4% cut in Medicare funding amounting to $36 billion in early 2022.  The cuts would be in place for each of the next five years.

TSCL opposes these cuts for a number of reasons.  Medical practices in particular have been hurt by the pandemic and should not have to face lower Medicare reimbursements.

According to the Congressional Research Service, patients would be unlikely to see a reduction in benefits or any other direct impacts of sequestration, but it would have a large impact on how much providers are paid by Medicare for their services, sending them back to pre-pandemic rates.

However, it is possible that some doctors and hospitals may opt not to accept Medicare due to lower cost reimbursements or providers may also try to pass extra costs to consumers.

TSCL strongly supports quick passage of the urgently needed legislation to stop the cuts.

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Despite the coronavirus emergency, TSCL is continuing its fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.  We have had to make some adjustments in the way we carry on our work, but we have not, and will not stop our work on your behalf.

For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org, follow TSCL on Twitter or Facebook.