Enrollment in Medicare Advantage Plans Increases
USA Today on Wednesday examined the effects of increasing enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans. According to data from CMS and the consulting firm Avalere Health, enrollment in MA plans increased by 19% from Dec. 1, 2005, through July 1, 2006, to reach 7.3 million beneficiaries.
USA Today reports that enrollment growth had been especially strong in private, fee-for-service Medicare plans, which generally have wider provider networks than conventional managed care plans. According to USA Today, enrollment in the private, fee-for-service plans increased 265% from December 2005 through July, but the plans still represent only a "tiny portion" of total Medicare enrollment.
The increase in private, fee-for-service plan enrollment accounted for 47% of total growth in MA plan enrollment over the same period, USA Today reports. The increase is "pleasing insurers" who offer the plans, "[b]ut fiscal watchdogs say the plans provide little benefit to taxpayers," according to USA Today.
Congress initially projected that MA plans would decrease expenditures because of cost-control methods used by managed care plans, USA Today reports. However, a recent report from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission finds that MA plans cost the government an average of 11% more than traditional Medicare.
Marilyn Moon, a vice president at the American Institutes for Research, said, "There is absolutely [no advantage], except for the religious fervor that surrounds the notion that the private sector is better than the public sector."
Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said, "More choice is good news for beneficiaries" (Appleby, USA Today, 8/9).