Delays

Pandemic Delays Federal Probe Into Medicare Advantage Health Plans

Federal health officials, citing a need to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, have temporarily halted some efforts to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments made to Medicare Advantage health plans.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says the decision will allow insurers and the agency to “focus on patient care,” and will last “until after the public health emergency has ended.”

Critics aren’t convinced that’s a wise idea.

“Some loosening of regulations during a crisis is necessary. But is this an abdication of oversight?” asked David Lipschutz, associate director and a senior policy attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “This is a serious concern we will have to grapple with at some point.”

Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private health insurers under contracts with Medicare. They treat more than 24 million Americans, most of them seniors at a relatively high risk of serious health complications

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Cancer Patients Face Treatment Delays And Uncertainty As Coronavirus Cripples Hospitals

The federal government has encouraged health centers to delay nonessential surgeries while weighing the severity of patients’ conditions and the availability of personal protective equipment, beds and staffing at hospitals.

People with cancer are among those at high risk of complications if infected with the new coronavirus. It’s estimated 1.8 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. this year. More than 600,000 people are receiving chemotherapy.

That means millions of Americans may be navigating unforeseen challenges to getting care.

Christine Rayburn in Olympia, Washington, was diagnosed with breast cancer in mid-February. The new coronavirus was in the news, but the 48-year-old did not imagine the outbreak would affect her. Her doctor said Rayburn needed to start treatment immediately. The cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes.

“The cancer tumor seemed to have attached itself to a nerve,” said Rayburn, who was a schoolteacher for many years.

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