Find the latest news and information on Medicare plans, costs, changes, eligibility, enrollment and comparisons from the experts at PlanPrescriber.

2014 Medicare Part D PremiumsCosts associated with Medicare prescription drug coverage can vary each year. See how much you can expect to pay for 2014 Medicare Part D premiums.

The Medicare Part D benefit was first created by the government in 2006 to provide prescription drug coverage to all individuals enrolled in the Medicare program. To get coverage, beneficiaries must enroll in a Part D plan offered by Medicare-approved private health insurance companies. Since then, over 35 million beneficiaries are enrolled in Part D plans, with 22.5 million in stand-alone Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) and 12.8 million in Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans (MA-PDs) in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Funding of this drug benefit is in part provided by the government; however, the beneficiaries themselves are responsible for a portion of the costs. This includes a monthly charge, also known as the Part D premium, which is paid to private insurance companies offering these plans.

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Government Releases Medicare Payment Data Highlighting Top Billing DoctorsIn an unprecedented move, the government has released Medicare payment data to give transparency to how much the program pays Medicare doctors for the medical services they provide.

On Wednesday, the long sought-after Medicare payment data was released to the public, showing just how much the government paid individual Medicare doctors in the calendar year of 2012. The data focused on billing information for various Medicare Part B services and procedures provided to beneficiaries. While this historic release of Medicare payment data has allowed for greater transparency into government spending, it has also caused uproar in certain communities, especially among doctors who were highlighted to be top Medicare billers.

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Federal Government Rolls Back Proposed Medicare Advantage CutsIn a surprising reversal, the federal government announced that it would not be making cuts to Medicare Advantage for 2015, and will instead increase payment rates to these private insurance plans.

In February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) suggested a 1.9% payment reduction for all private Medicare health plans, known as Medicare Advantage, or Part C. This proposal was part of a strategy to curtail Medicare Advantage spending by forcing it in line with the government-run Original Medicare program (Part A and Part B insurance).

Earlier this week, however, the CMS reversed its decision and announced that it would instead raise federal payments to Part C plans by 0.4% in 2015. According to Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator at the CMS, payment rates to Medicare Advantage are expected to vary by geographic location, plan rating, and other additional factors. On the whole, though, private insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans will see some type of cost decline as a result of federal reimbursement.

The motion was anything but universally lauded. Some praised the CMS for refraining from making any Medicare-based cuts in tumultuous times, while others wondered if there was any validity to the strategy.

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5 Things You Should Know About Medicare Advantage PlansMedicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, provides all the benefits of Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), but could also include additional benefits, such as dental, hearing, and prescription drug coverage. Understanding Part C may help you find the best and most affordable option for you.   

Unlike Medicare Part A and Part B, which is administered by the federal government, Medicare Advantage is sold through private insurance companies with Medicare’s approval. In order to qualify for a Medicare Advantage plan, you must already be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, reside in the plan’s network, and not have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) in most cases.

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Medicare “Doc Fix” Passed to Stop Payment Cuts to DoctorsCongress has once again passed a Medicare “doc fix” to prevent doctors who treat Medicare patients from being hit with payment cuts.

With just hours to spare before the deadline, Congress finalized the Medicare “doc fix” for the 17th time. After a quick approval in the House of Representatives through voice vote, the bill passed in the Senate on Monday with a verdict of 64-35. The passing of this legislation prevents a 24% cut to the reimbursement rate paid by Medicare to doctors, which would have greatly impacted all aspects of the Medicare community. The “doc fix” will now go to President Barack Obama for a signature.

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Is Anti-CD47 a Miracle Drug? A Cancer Drug Effective in Mice to Begin Human TestingThe war against cancer takes a step forward with a new drug proven to shrink all kinds of transplanted cancer in test mice. But the big question remains: will it work on humans?

Last year brought news of anti-CD47, a cancer drug that pits the immune system against tumor cells. Its success rate has been an across-the-board reduction or elimination of all kinds of tumors and cancerous growth in test mice: human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate.

Anti-CD47 works by blocking the predatory signal intrinsic of tumor cells. Those cells trick the immune system into ignoring them, allowing them to spread unchecked throughout the body. With the signal blocked, immune system cells are able to recognize the tumor cells as threats, and will act accordingly to destroy them.

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Medicare General Enrollment Period: Signing Up for Medicare Part A and/or Part B

The Medicare General Enrollment Period occurs in the beginning of each year and allows eligible individuals to sign up for Medicare.

Many people are automatically in Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, while others have to sign up when they first become eligible during their seven-month Initial Enrollment Period. Outside of these situations, eligible individuals can only enroll if they qualify for a Special Enrollment Period by having and/or losing employer or group coverage. Those who didn’t sign up when they were first eligible, and don’t qualify based on personal circumstances, have limited other opportunities to sign up for Original Medicare. That’s where the Medicare General Enrollment Period comes in.

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CMS Withdraws Controversial Medicare Part D ProposalThe government has withdrawn proposed changes to the Medicare Part D program amid public outcry.

Last Monday, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decided to withdraw several parts of a proposal aimed to reform and clarify certain aspects of the Medicare Part D program. As stated by CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner, much of the reasoning behind this reversal was stakeholder opposition and the complexities of the issues at hand.

The proposal had sparked much controversy. On one hand, government officials stated that the Medicare Part D proposal would help beneficiaries make better decisions about their drug coverage, while saving taxpayer money. On the other hand, some in the pharmaceutical and health care industries believed that it would do the opposite, hurting beneficiaries and taxpayers instead. Over 200 groups representing patients, seniors, lawmakers, and other health care professionals had even voiced their opposition in a letter to CMS.

Of the Medicare Part D changes proposed, there were three main ones on the forefront of discussion.

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5 Things You Should Know About Medicare Part D PlansMedicare Part D plans provide prescription drug coverage to all Medicare beneficiaries. Not understanding how Part D works and when to enroll could result in higher costs.

Most Individuals become eligible for the Medicare program either by reaching age 65 or being under 65 with certain disabilities or illnesses. With age and health complications comes the need for a variety of medications. However, the hospital and medical benefits provided by Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, do not cover most medication needs. Instead, the government offers prescription drug coverage through Medicare Part D plans to all individuals enrolled Part A and/or Part B.

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Can a Blood Test Accurately Predict the Onset of Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

As the world population expands, it’s natural to assume that number of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will as well.

The G8 summit predicts 135 million people with dementia by 2050, and the global health community is continuing to seek ways to combat cognitive loss.

Unfortunately, the means to cure and/or combat the onset and spread of Alzheimer’s and dementia does not currently exist. Numerous studies have been conducted to identify its cause, and everything from exercise to chocolate consumption has been deemed a potential tool in keeping the symptoms at bay.

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