13 April 2009

Medicare Disadvantage

If you're 65 or older you've gotten the junk mail from Humana or Aetna or dozens of other insurance plans offering you complete, all-in-one health care plans. These plans fall under the title of Medicare Advantage.

They sound so clean and simple. A complete turn-key health plan with some including some form of drug coverage, vision and dental. But, there's a big old problem. These plans cost the country a whole lot more than traditional Medicare, and are part of what is draining the system.

Back in January, Medicare Advantage insurers announced a price increase of 13% compared to a 6% premium increase for private commercial insurers. That's more than twice as much. There are welcome signs that this hand-out of our tax dollars to the insurance oligarchs is due to come to an end.

During his campaign, President Obama, singled out for heavy criticism this give-away to insurance companies and promised to whittle out $50-billion in subsidies to the program.

Now, according to the Alliance for Retired Americans, the president is making good on his promise. Last Monday, April 6, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced cuts in payments for Medicare Advantage plans in 2010. The Wall Street Journal reports that reimbursements to such plans would fall by 4% or more next year, with even more to follow.

These plans cost taxpayers more, by anywhere from 13% - 19%, than the traditional Medicare program and, in part, contribute to predicted future Medicare "crunch".

Eliminating the added expense burden of Advantage plans, is a good first step toward real health care reform and ultimately insuring universal health care for all.

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