KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Seniors Fret Cuts To Private Medicare Plans

Seniors' number one reform concern is Medicare, which stands to face up to $500 billion in cuts over the next decade, NPR reports. About 25 percent of the savings will come from Medicare Advantage, a program of privately-operated managed care plans that provide seniors' benefits. Seniors see that as a problem, because cuts will likely eject some from the program: In Medicare Advantage, one senior said, "[t]here are no deductibles. There's no 20 percent copay [sic]. Traditional Medicare would have deductibles. It would only pay 80 percent and I'd be responsible for the 20 percent." But, the program costs the government 14 percent more compared with patients in traditional Medicare (Allen, 10/1).

Insurers operating a slightly different type of private Medicare plan, private fee for service, are already running into difficulties, the Wall Street Journal reports. "More than 660,000 seniors next year will lose the private Medicare plans they now have because some insurers are dropping coverage in response to tougher federal requirements." Lawmakers voted last year to require the special plans to develop provider networks, like managed care plans, in an effort to curb costs. Many plans have complied, but other are dropping out (Zhang and Johnson, 10/1).

Advantage plans, meanwhile, are increasing their premiums for some seniors, Kaiser Health News reports. In Philadelphia, for instance, seniors will have to pay $52 monthly premiums; this year they were required to pay nothing. On average, Advantage enrollees will face a $7 increase this year and are expected to pay $39 premiums (Galewitz, 10/1).

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