Extend Health exhibited at the Garland Senior Fair in Texas this past Sat, Aug 4. There was a great turnout of over 350 people from the community and surrounding areas including seniors, their families, community leaders and service providers like us, who care about seniors and senior issues.

State Representative Angie Chen Button thanked Dwight and Ivory in person for exhibiting at the fair, fulfilling an invitation that she extended to Bryce Williams, Towers Watson Managing Director of Extend Health, at the ribbon-cutting of the first Extend Health service center in Richardson this past May.

Richardson Mayor Bob Townsend encouraged everyone to make good use of the resources available. And many other community leaders, including City of Rowlett Senior Advisory Board members Pamela Bell and Wayne Baxter, met with attendees and the community groups and companies exhibiting.

Dwight Turner and Ivory Rooks, both senior benefit advisors for Extend Health, who have years of experience helping seniors choose the best Medicare plans for them, served as Extend Health ambassadors. They answered people’s questions about Medicare and shared resources with them, explaining the role Extend Health can play in helping to connect people with the best coverage for their needs.

According to Dwight, “We put the care into shopping for Medicare!“

Ivory added, “It was great to be able to connect in person with people and extend a helping hand.”

Extend Health contributed a Texas-themed gift basket, which was raffled off to a lucky winner. The day was welcome chance to connect in person with many in a community that is very important to Extend Health.

We recently announced that Extend Health is bringing over 500 jobs to the community with the opening of its second service center in the Richardson Telecom Corridor.

Visit Extend Health to use the ExtendExchange™ platform – the nation’s largest private Medicare insurance exchange.

Extend Health held its very first tweet chat today. The topic was health care reform, and there were some really great questions – and a bit of humor tossed in too. John Barkett, Dir. of Policy Affairs at ExtendHealth fielded questions. John worked in congress on health care and his wealth of knowledge was evident in the answers he provided.

If you missed our tweet chat you can read a complete recap of the event. Hope to see you at the next one!

Visit Extend Health to use the ExtendExchange™ platform – the nation’s largest private Medicare insurance exchange.

We surveyed seniors on Medicare to learn how they feel about the Supreme Court and its recent ruling on the health care law. The results are very interesting, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading about it in the press release below. Thanks!

July 17, 2012 03:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Extend Health Survey: Seniors on Medicare Respond to U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Healthcare Reform Law: 46% of Senior Women View the Decision as “Positive”; 27% of Senior Men

Survey fielded within 24 hours of ruling reveals “gender divide” among seniors

SAN MATEO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A survey of 441 seniors on Medicare fielded from June 29-July 2, 2012, showed that 46% of female respondents view the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law as “positive,” compared with just 27% of male respondents. In addition, 40% of senior women said that the fact that the ruling upheld provisions closing the Part D prescription drug coverage gap, known as the “donut hole,” influenced how they felt about the ruling, compared to just 26% of senior men who felt similarly.

The survey was fielded by Extend Health, operator of the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange. The company has been surveying seniors on their attitudes about retirement, healthcare and Medicare since December 2009. Extend Health is a Towers Watson company.

Under the healthcare reform law, individuals who fall into the donut hole receive a 50% discount on the cost of brand-name prescription drugs, with that discount increasing in future years until it reaches 75% in 2020. If the Supreme Court had ruled the law unconstitutional, that provision would have been overturned.

Said Bryce Williams, Managing Director of Extend Health, “The healthcare reform law is a divisive issue for many Americans, but seniors on Medicare apparently line up along gender lines. Based on comments made by our survey respondents, the reason for the different views of women versus men is based in part on women’s experience as caregivers to multiple generations: their children, their parents and their spouses. Perhaps this accounts for the difference in how women view the healthcare reform law and its goal of insuring more Americans.”

Questions and detailed results from the survey are as follows:

On June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, with some clarifications. All of the provisions of the law that affect Medicare remain unchanged.

What do you think about the Supreme Court ruling overall?

Men Women
I think it is positive 27.3% 46.1%
I think it is negative 61.7% 38.3%
I don’t have an opinion 11.0% 15.7%

Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals who fall into the Part D coverage gap (“donut hole”) receive a 50% discount on the cost of brand-name prescription drugs, with that discount increasing in future years until it reaches 75% in 2020. If the Supreme Court had ruled the law unconstitutional, that provision would have been overturned.

How does the fact that the Part D coverage gap provision was upheld influence how you feel about the ruling?

Men Women
I feel more positive 25.7% 39.7%
I feel more negative 19.9% 17.2%
It makes no difference 54.4% 43.1%

Extend Health has helped hundreds of thousands of seniors compare and choose private Medicare plans. Extend Health is the only place seniors can compare thousands of plans from more than 75 carriers side by side and find plans that best meet their needs. Licensed benefit advisors are available to help seniors evaluate their Medicare coverage and explore new options quickly and easily.

About Extend Health

Founded in 2004, Extend Health operates the largest private Medicare exchange in the country. Extend Health is a Towers Watson company. For more information, visit Extend Health on the web at http://www.extendhealth.com.

Extend Health is a registered trademark of Extend Health, Inc. Other names may be trademarks or servicemarks of their respective owners.


For Extend Health, Inc.
Rob Wyse, 212-920-1470

Visit Extend Health to use the ExtendExchange™ platform – the nation’s largest private Medicare insurance exchange.

Here’s an excerpt from a new post just published on Bryce Williams’ blog “Watch This,” on the need for transparency in health care pricing:

“Knowledge is power — the power to think, to act, to buy, or even to not do any of the above. Our nation’s health insurers and health care providers need to figure out how to put power back into the hands of consumers. Consumers today have too many constraints when it comes to accessing decision-critical information about the cost of health care. That’s a hard pill to swallow when there’s so much at stake.”

Read the full post on Watch This.

Visit Extend Health to use the ExtendExchange™ platform – the nation’s largest private Medicare insurance exchange.

Coventry Health Care just recognized Extend Health for efficiency and customer satisfaction, including zero customer complaints in 2011. Here’s a brief snip from the press release.

“Extend Health Inc., a leading provider of health benefits management services, including the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange, received two first place awards from Bethesda, Maryland-based Coventry Health Care, Inc. (NYSE:CVH) for exceptional customer service performance by a partner in 2011.

  • Zero customer complaints reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) by seniors signing up for Coventry private Medicare supplement plans through Extend Health;
  • The lowest 90-day plan cancellation rate — called rapid disenrollment — which, at just 0.5 percent, was far less than the typical rate.”

Click here to read the complete news release.

Visit Extend Health to use the ExtendExchange™ platform – the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange.

Based on provisions in the Affordable Care Act, over the last two years CMS has stepped up its efforts to root out and prevent Medicare fraud with measures that include stronger penalties, enhanced provider screening and enrollment requirements, improved fraud prevention coordination and new high tech tools. This post takes a look at the success of those efforts so far.

Anti-fraud efforts by the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Abuse Control (HCFAC) recovered over $4 billion during 2011, and nearly $11 billion over the past three years. In February of 2012 the Medicare Fraud Strike Force busted a $375 million health care fraud scheme, arresting a Dallas area doctor, office manager, and five owners of home health agencies for their alleged participation.

Other accomplishments include:

  • Charged 323 defendants who allegedly billed Medicare for over $1 billion
  • Charged 1,430 defendants with health care fraud and convicted 743
  • Recovered approximately $2.4 billion under the False Claims Act (FCA) in 2011

Seniors on Patrol Against Fraud

CMS is bringing seniors into the effort to control fraud too. In November of 2011 CMS awarded $9 million to the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program to help it continue the fight against Medicare fraud. The SMP program has 5,000 volunteers across the nation. The funds will help seniors learn how to prevent, detect, and report health care fraud.

According to CMS, “the SMP volunteers work in their communities to educate Medicare beneficiaries, family members, and caregivers about the importance of reviewing their Medicare notices, and Medicaid claims if dually-eligible, to identify errors and potentially fraudulent activity.”

Since the program began in 1997, more than 25 million people have participated in community outreach education events, and over 4 million Medicare beneficiaries have received education in one-on-one counseling sessions.

High-Tech Tools

In 2011 CMS added high-tech tools to help it “crack down on waste, fraud and abuse.” In June of 2011 CMS announced that it would begin using predictive modeling technology, similar to technology used by credit card companies, to identify potentially fraudulent Medicare claims and prevent them from being paid. The new tools will help CMS move from its former “pay & chase” approach to one that focuses on preventing fraud and abuse before it takes place.

Visit Extend Health to use the ExtendExchange™ platform – the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange.

The 2012 Medicare Trustees Report released today echoes last year’s report estimating the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund (Medicare Part A) will stay solvent until 2024. The Medicare Board of Trustees issues this report annually and it has been projecting the year the program would become insolvent almost every year since the reports began back in 1970. A recently published chart  lists the projections from previous reports.

The 2012 report also says that premiums and revenue for Supplementary Medical Insurance program (Medicare Part B and Part D) are expected to cover costs.

The CMS press release and link to the report are available here.

Visit Extend Health to use the ExtendExchange™ platform – the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange.

On Monday, March 12th the Department of Health and Human Services Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) released a set of final regulations that will govern the state-based health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The much-anticipated regulations will allow states to further their efforts to create marketplaces where individuals and small employers can purchase health insurance starting in 2014. What will the setup of these state-based health care exchanges mean for Extend Health clients? In this interview, our resident health care reform expert and Director of Product Marketing, John Barkett, who worked on drafting and implementing the ACA before coming to work at Extend Health, helps translate what’s going on.

Extend Health: What’s the difference between a state-based health care exchange and the ExtendExchange Medicare exchange platform operated by Extend Health? Are they the same thing?

John Barkett: They are not the same thing. The state-based exchanges and the ExtendExchange platform are both marketplaces where carriers can list their products and individuals can shop for and enroll in a plan. The New York Stock Exchange serves the same purpose for firms who wish to list and sell securities and investors who wish to buy them. But the state-based health care exchanges also have the power and responsibility to qualify plans. This is similar to how the SEC must certify a firm before it is permitted to sell its shares on a stock exchange. The regulations that were just released are 644 pages long (Download), in part because states are being tasked with setting up an insurance-world equivalent of both a stock exchange and a securities exchange commission for health insurance.

Read the rest of this entry »

As employers consider alternatives to offering retirees traditional group Medicare insurance, they may evaluate more than one supplemental insurance solution. Employers often compare an Employer Group Waiver Plan (EGWP) solution with a private Medicare exchange such as the one provided by Extend Health. Both solutions offer some clear benefits, including:

  • Financial relief provided by CMS subsidies
  • GASB and FAS liability reductions
  • Catastrophic payment relief
  • Increased benefit flexibility

However, only a Medicare exchange can reduce an employer’s administrative burden, and only a Medicare exchange can provide post-65 retirees with the flexibility to choose a supplemental plan that meets their needs, often at a lower cost. These are solid reasons to move to a Medicare exchange solution, but employers with certain populations, such as unions that have strong contractual benefits obligations, may prefer not to migrate their full Medicare-eligible population to an exchange.

Understanding that both solutions offer advantages for employers, Extend Health has partnered with Medco to provide an Extend Health EGWP solution. Employers can leverage the power of the individual Medicare marketplace through the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange, recognize savings, and meet ongoing obligations to retain a group prescription drug program where necessary.

Read on to learn more.  Read the rest of this entry »

Washington Extension

January 20, 2012

Medicare News

Medicare Advantage plans that offer gym memberships to enrollees may have the same effect as cherry picking healthy beneficiaries, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The authors found that enrollees in plans with gym memberships are healthier and have fewer mobility limitations than enrollees in plans without fitness benefits. The study did not address whether the plans were purposefully trying to attract and retain healthier enrollees, which is prohibited by law.

Gradually increasing the Medicare eligibility age to 67 would save the Federal government $148 billion over ten years, according to a new Congressional Budget Office report, or about a 5 percent annual reduction in Medicare spending. Although most seniors losing access to Medicare would have employer-based coverage, they would face higher premiums and pay more out-of-pocket for health care.

ACA Update

The White House released a report showing that 28 states have taken concrete steps toward establishing a health insurance exchange—half with clear authority to set up an exchange and half with executive orders or studies authorizing exchange work. Another 22 are still studying their options. The report highlights the actions of ten states and summarizes the authority and funding for exchange development in each state.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will officially return a $37 million Early Innovator grant from the Federal government. He has also directed the state health agency to cease work on a state-run health insurance exchange and will rescind the creation of the state Office of Free Market Health Care. Kansas House Republicans are pressuring Governor Sam Brownback to cancel the state’s $135 million contract with Accenture to design a computer system to track social service applicants. Though Governor Brownback has put a moratorium on health insurance exchange work until after the Supreme Court decision, Republicans saw Accenture’s project as laying the groundwork for an exchange. New Hampshire’s Senate voted unanimously to establish a health insurance exchange, with backers citing the need to keep state control over if the ACA is implemented. New Hampshire’s House is opposed to ACA implementation.

The US Department of Health and Human Services faces pushback on its essential health benefits proposal. Patient advocates are asking for an additional 45 day comment period, after the initial deadline of January 31, 2012. Republicans are criticizing the use of sub-regulatory guidance rather than the traditional rulemaking process, accusing HHS of sidestepping regulatory requirements for cost-benefit and unfunded mandate analyses.

On the Hill

The House and Senate conference committee assigned to negotiate a longer-term solution to the payroll tax break and Medicare physician payments will convene on January 24th. The House returned to Washington, DC on January 17th and the Senate returns on the 23rd. Current law expires on February 29th, at which point Medicare’s payments to physicians would fall by nearly one-third.

Other News/Reports

The Congressional Budget Office found that Medicare demonstration programs—used to explore new ways to deliver and pay for Medicare—rarely reduce Medicare spending and in fact are often more costly. Value-based payment experiments struggled to overcome Medicare’s fee-for-service payment incentives while trying to increase the quality and efficiency of care delivered, and only successfully decreased spending by negotiating lower payment rates. CBO concludes that effective demonstration programs focus on transitions in care settings, gather timely data on care utilization, encourage close interaction between physicians and case managers, and target interventions to high-risk enrollees.

Visit Extend Health — the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange.