MEDICARE HMOS: 730,000 Will Be Dropped by 2000
"Underscor[ing] the turbulence and uncertainty many Medicare patients are experiencing" due to the increasing number of HMOs dropping their Medicare plans, a recent Gannett News Service analysis finds that more than 730,000 elderly and disabled Americans have been forced to find new health care services, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Currently Medicare has 39 million beneficiaries, 6.2 million (17%) of whom are enrolled in an HMO. To date, 407,000 seniors and disabled people have been dropped by their HMOs, while 325,000 are expected to lose their coverage by year's end, as 99 managed-care plans in 29 states are closing their Medicare HMOs. While Medicare recipients scramble to find new plans, lawmakers, federal regulators, interest groups and academics continue the finger-pointing. According to Karen Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans, Medicare spending cuts resulting from the 1997 Balanced Budget Act have "thrown Medicare HMOs into a crisis," adding that "America's seniors and disabled deserve better treatment from their federal government." Some lawmakers take another view of the problem. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) states, "I don't think health plans are sinister, but I don't think we should be asked to pay them more until they provide some answers. (These) health plans will try to squeeze as much or more out of the government as possible." Medicare's Center for Health Plans and Providers Director Robert Berenson agrees with President Clinton's plan to include prescriptions under Medicare coverage, stating "Clearly all beneficiaries need a more stable and reliable source of prescription drug coverage. [T]he best solution is to ... provid[e] all beneficiaries with access to an affordable prescription-drug benefit." In all likelihood, the issue will not be resolved until Congress reconvenes in September (Gannett News Service/Salt Lake Tribune, 8/5).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.