CHCF, Consumers Union Release Second Annual Report on California Medicare HMOs
The number of Medicare+Choice plans offered in California fell from 196 to 100 over the past year, making it more difficult for seniors to find a "top plan," according to a new report from the California HealthCare Foundation and Consumers Union (CHCF release, 3/20). The "2002 Guide to California Medicare HMOs," the second such project by the two organizations, offers a county-by-county analysis of managed care plans available to seniors, including information about costs and benefits (Correa, Fresno Bee, 3/20). The report, intended to help seniors choose a health plan, found that the "value of Medicare HMO plans varies widely and that paying more for an expensive plan does not guarantee a better value." It also found large discrepancies in prescription drug coverage, with some plans offering no coverage and others paying more than half of a beneficiary's drug costs. "To make the best choice, seniors should carefully study the plans available and pick the one that comes closest to meeting their individual health care needs," Ann Monroe, director of CHCF's Quality Initiative program, said, adding, "When it comes to choosing a Medicare HMO, it pays to do your homework" (CHCF release, 3/20). Trudy Lieberman, director of the Center for Consumer Health Choices at Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, said that the new report includes a summary of Medicare HMOs' financial health, something not contained in last year's report (Wolfson, Orange County Register, 3/20). The new guide may take on more significance for California seniors because of a new federal "lock in" rule that allows beneficiaries to change Medicare HMOs only once between January and June, and not at all from July to December. Previously, seniors had been able to change plans once a month (CHCF release, 3/20). Information on how to obtain a copy of the report is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.