Medicare+Choice Benefits Decrease, Premiums Increase in 2002, Commonwealth Fund Reports Find
Medicare+Choice plans reduced benefits, including prescription drug coverage, and beneficiaries paid 40% more in monthly premiums in 2002 compared to 2001, according to two reports released today by the Commonwealth Fund. The reports, conducted by researchers at Mathematica Policy Research, found that in 2002, M+C plans covered less of Medicare's cost-sharing provisions, and fewer plans provided coverage for benefits excluded from basic Medicare, including prescription drugs, than in 2001. The first report, titled "Average Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs for Medicare+Choice Enrollees Increase Substantially in 2002," found that average annual out-of-pocket costs for M+C beneficiaries increased 24%, from $1,438 in 2001 to $1,786 this year. Costs for beneficiaries in "good health" increased 20%, to $1,430, while costs for beneficiaries in "poor health" increased 34%, to $4,783. The second report, titled "Trends in Medicare+Choice Benefits and Premiums, 1999-2002," found that average monthly M+C premiums increased from $25 in 2001 to $32 this year. In addition, the report found that the percentage of beneficiaries enrolled in an M+C plan that required hospital cost sharing increased from 33% in 2001 to 78% in 2002. According to Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, the reports show that "Medicare's benefit package is outdated, and M+C and other supplemental products leave many beneficiaries, especially the poorest and sickest, without adequate protection." Davis added, "Policymakers can address these limitations by modernizing the current Medicare benefit" (Commonwealth Fund release, 11/1).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.