Information & Referral
By Alan M. Schlein
Medicare is like a government octopus, with its tentacles stretching into almost every aspect of senior life.
With its policies affecting 50 million beneficiaries, this agency has a lot going on simultaneously. Sometimes, policies it puts in place get lost in the shuffle, as it has with its obesity program (see below). Other times, people figure out how to game the system, resulting in huge fraud and abuse.
So as often happens at year end, the agency, formally known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has been issuing rulings, decisions and actions to clear the end-of-year backlog. Here’s a run-down of some of the more important actions and policy implications.
New Rules to Reduce Billing Abuses
Fraud is tops on the agenda as the next Republican-controlled Congress has signaled it plans to try and rein in Medicare waste and fraud. The Obama administration has been working on this issue for months and in December, the White House strengthened Medicare’s authority to kick doctors and other medical providers out of the federal program for abusively billing the government.
Facing stunning dollar amounts of waste and abuse, the move is a serious shift in how the government cracks down on waste and abuse in Medicare. CMS estimates that for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, Medicare issued $45.8 billion in improper payments, representing nearly 13 percent of its total spending.
Under the new rules, Medicare will be able to revoke the billing privileges of any doctor, medical-equipment seller or other health service provider who demonstrates a pattern of billing the program inappropriately.
By Mr. Modem
Q. I’ve heard there is a way to cheat when playing Solitaire. I hate to ask, but can you shed any light on this?
A. I don’t know why as many people ask about this as they do, particularly since Solitaire (Programs > Games) is a game you play against yourself, but Mr. Modem is here to answer questions, not to judge. Well, okay, I judge, too, but I keep my opinions to myself. Well, okay, maybe I don’t keep my opinions to myself, but I only share them with my cats. Here’s how to extricate yourself from Solitaire when you need a card, but it’s just not coming your way:
If you find yourself in that virtual pickle, hold down the SHIFT + CTRL + ALT keys and click the “draw” stack of cards. This forces the game to flip the remaining cards individually, as opposed to the traditional three at a time. Do this as many times as it takes to reach the card you need. You’ll amaze and astound your friends and family how proficient you are at Solitaire. (Either that, or they will know instantly that you’re cheating.)