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Increase in 2012 Medicare premiums will be less than expected

Washington -- Patient fees under the Medicare program for 2012 will be restrained by lower utilization rates of physician and other health services, according to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials. The lower-than-expected utilization means Medicare outpatient premiums will rise more modestly in 2012, CMS announced Oct. 27. Standard Part B premiums had been projected to increase to $106.60 a month, but instead will rise to $99.90 next year. The standard premium is $96.40 in 2011. Standard premiums are set so that they cover 25% of projected Medicare costs. Higher-income seniors pay higher premium amounts based on a sliding scale. At the same time, the Medicare Part B deductible will decrease to $140 in 2012 from $166 in 2011. The deductible is set by Medicare law to reflect one-half of the total estimated per-enrollee cost of benefits and administrative expenses. The calculations also assume that Congress will override a nearly 30% cut to Medicare physician pay ...

Detailed disclosures would clarify financial links between doctors and industry

Clear, specific requirements for what needs to be disclosed when physicians have relationships with medical device and pharmaceutical manufactures will be essential to evaluating conflicts of interest inherent to such relationships, a study concludes. Researchers examined data from a Dept. of Justice settlement with the five largest joint implant manufacturers and found complex payment patterns to orthopedic surgeons. The settlement required the companies to release details on the number of orthopedic surgeons receiving payments, the size of the payments, the aggregate dollar amount and the proportion going to academically affiliated orthopedic surgeons in 2007 and 2008. Study authors said the number of orthopedic surgeons receiving payments declined substantially after disclosure was required under the settlement in 2007: 526 received payments in 2008, down from 939 in 2007. For three firms that continued to report in 2009 and 2010, the numbers began to rise again, but not to wh ...

Massachusetts struggles with cost control after reducing uninsured

Health system reforms in Massachusetts may have reduced its uninsured population to the smallest of any state, but the effort has not controlled growth in health care costs -- at least not yet. Five years after Massachusetts launched its groundbreaking health reform initiative, health care costs continue to grow, emergency department visits have increased, and many more residents have high-deductible health plans, according to a critique released on Oct. 25 by Physicians for a National Health Program, an advocacy group with 18,000 members who support a single-payer health system. These trends could become a national story under the health system reform law, which largely was based on Massachusetts' reforms, Benjamin Day said. He is the report's lead author and executive director of "Mass-Care: The Massachusetts Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care." The state's health insurance exchange offers health plans with income-based subsidies, while a Medicaid expansion covers virtually ...