Federal funding for meals on wheels is on the chopping block. The Trump administration budget blueprint released in March calls for the elimination of two federal block grants:  That’s money the federal government gives the states for social welfare programs, and those programs include home-delivered meals and meals served in senior centers.

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Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare are getting lots of media attention. But like most reporting on major issues, the coverage is about who’s up, who’s down, who wins, and who loses. Explanations of how proposals will affect people will get short shrift. 

Over the past few months, these columns have raised plenty of questions about Medicare, present and future, and I’ve received many responses to those questions from readers. Today’s column addresses some of readers’ concerns about Medicare, a complicated program. 

Q: Why do you refer to Social Security as social insurance?  This continues to baffle me just as those who continually refer to SS as a handout. It’s not a handout. That money has been taken out of every one of my paychecks since I was 16. This is my money.  TF

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When you fill a prescription at your local pharmacy, you assume the medicine you receive is safe and won’t interact badly with other drugs you’re taking.

That’s not an unreasonable assumption, considering that pharmacists enjoy a positive reputation among the public. A recent Gallup poll found that pharmacists are among the most trusted professionals ranking second only to nurses.

In a recent column I reported on an effort in Ohio to bring price transparency to medical services. Ohio state representative Jim Butler had spearheaded passage of legislation that would require healthcare providers including doctors and hospitals to disclose prices for their services. The law was supposed to take effect last summer, but Gov. John Kasich, the Ohio Hospital Association, and other health groups that oppose transparency have stymied implementation. The governor’s budget for next year calls for repealing the law.

The failure of the Republican-led effort to repeal and replace Obamacare represents a big victory for all kinds of citizens and interest groups that analyzed the proposed legislation and said no dice. 

The day before House Speaker Paul Ryan decided not to take a vote on the American Health Care Act, a Quinnipiac Poll found that only 17 percent of American voters approved of the GOP’s legislation while 56 percent did not.

What’s going to happen to Medicare? 

That’s not an insignificant question given the political shift in Washington.  Now, with Republicans controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress, some ideas they’ve been pushing for years have a chance of passing. Those ideas would drastically change the way Medicare works for those already on it and those joining in the next few years.

Anyone facing a hospital stay for themselves or a family member should look at new data the government released right before Christmas showing that it  penalized 769 of the nation’s hospitals for having high rates of patient injuries. The monetary penalties – a reduction for the year in their reimbursement for treating Medicare patients – do bite. Larger teaching hospitals could lose as much as $1 million or more.

Lori Eng, a 62-year-old office manager who works in western Nebraska, sent an email not long ago telling me she was “terrified” she might loose her Obamacare health insurance.  The many horror stories passed along in the media had frightened her, and she wanted me to hear from someone who had benefitted from the law.

Will patients benefit from the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act? After listening to politicians and reading the headlines, most people might think it’s the best thing ever to come along for patients. 

Surprise medical bills spell big trouble for consumers, especially those who find themselves in an emergency room. Such “surprises” have surfaced as a major patient problem, but because of entrenched healthcare interests, a solution is not likely any time soon.

What You Need To Know About Choosing Health Insurance 

Even though the election is over and Republicans are in a position to repeal and replace Obamacare as they’ve been vowing to do for several years, that doesn’t mean you should avoid signing up for 2017 insurance coverage.

The fight in California over a ballot initiative that would begin to control the price of pharmaceuticals paid by state programs shows how difficult it is to “do something” about the high price of prescription drugs.

Get ready to make some decisions. Medicare open enrollment begins October 15 and runs through early December. It’s the time when seniors and disabled people can switch plans to cover gaps in Medicare’s coverage. 

Recently I got a note from a reader of these columns who lives in Warren, Ohio. He had seen conflicting reports about next year’s insurance premiums. The man was skeptical of an article he had read, which reported that insurance premiums are cheaper than they were in 2010, and that the Affordable Care Act will cost $2.6 trillion less than estimated. Somehow that didn’t compute with what he had read about premiums going up.

Is the message that the nation is getting too fat beginning to sink in?

The answer is “yes but,” says the Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit, non-partisan group that aims to protect the health of communities and make disease prevention a national priority. And a study of healthcare quality and quantity across the nation suggests some reasons why things are not improving uniformly.

Recently a tweet from Lauren Sausser, a fine health reporter I know in South Carolina, caught my eye. “Crazy drug prices became personal. My dad will start Keytruda regimen on Friday, $15,000 per infusion, once every three weeks indefinitely.” The high cost of pharmaceuticals had hit home!

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently signaled to the nation’s hospitals that it was getting serious-and tough-about patient safety and the quality of care hospitals provide. The government’s rating system-five stars for the best hospitals and one star for the worst-sends a message that patients have a right to know what’s going on inside the hospitals they entrust with their lives or those of their family members. 

Nearly two-thirds of adults over age 70 have hearing loss that doctors consider “clinically meaningful.” In plain English that means as people age, they are likely to become hard of hearing.  Many of those people, however, don’t get the help they need, often because they simply cannot afford it.

A story in The Guardian, a British news outlet that now has a publishing arm in the U.S., grabbed my attention. The headline read, “Treatments for cancers and Alzheimer’s on the verge of a breakthrough.”

 

An Indiana couple who wrote to me a few weeks ago has experienced the ups and downs of Obamacare, and they wanted me to know about one downside they now face---a monthly premium of $836.

If you need a risky, complicated surgery, would you go to a hospital or surgeon who had performed the procedure only a time or two before?

Most people would say no, but the evidence indicates otherwise.

Who protects consumers of healthcare? Two recent emails from readers got me thinking about that question. I don’t mean consumers in their role as patients whose medical well-being is looked after by state medical boards and health departments that police doctors and hospitals. Those organizations don’t always do a perfect job protecting patients from harm, but at least they are in place.

Those of us who grew up in small rural communities in the 1950s and 60s, expected to have longer life spans than our parents.

Attached are documents that outline digital specs for different products, as well as a glossary of digital terms.