KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medicare Plan Choices Attract Attention As Open Enrollment Approaches

Kaiser Health News: "Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say they have taken steps to streamline this year's plan options [for private Medicare plans, including Part D, the prescription drug plan] – including eliminating some plans they consider duplicative. The changes, officials say, were part of an effort to ease seniors' confusion. But as the open enrollment period nears, the steps taken by CMS are drawing varied reviews" including dueling letters on the issue -- one by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., and the other from a coalition of advocacy groups (Marcy, 10/25).

The Buffalo News: "Western New York seniors are facing a dizzying array of Medicare plan choices with premium costs that have risen sharply -- nearly tripling in at least one case. Insurers are offering a total of 68 private Medicare plans in Western New York for 2011, including 33 prescription drug plans that work with the original government Medicare coverage and another 35 Medicare Advantage plans. Twenty-three Advantage plans include drug coverage. Medicare Advantage plans are privately issued coverage offered by insurers under contract from the federal government, which reimburses the carriers for most of the cost" (Epstein, 10/25).

Meanwhile, another group of doctors join in the push to address Medicare payment issues.

CQ HealthBeat: "The American Osteopathic Association added its voice to a chorus of doctor groups urging that Congress take immediate action to avoid scheduled cuts in Medicare physician payments starting Dec. 1, and warning that further short-term fixes are unacceptable. … If Congress does not act, reimbursements to physicians who see Medicare patients will be cut by 23 percent starting Dec. 1, and by another 6.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2011. But with lawmakers expected to be in session only one week in November before leaving for a Thanksgiving break, it will be difficult to get more than another short-term fix" (Ethridge, 10/25).

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