New Guide Ranks California’s Medicare+Choice Plans
There are "large discrepancies in value" among California Medicare+Choice plans, according to a new report conducted by Consumers Union and sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation, the Contra Costa Times reports. In the report, the first to evaluate Medicare+Choice plans on a county-by-county basis, Consumers Union ranked each plan in the state according to the value of benefits it offered. The rankings, however, do not include evaluations about quality of care (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 6/28). Medicare+Choice plans are available in 35 California counties. Of the state's four million Medicare beneficiaries, more than 1.5 million are enrolled in a Medicare+Choice plan (Feder, San Jose Mercury News, 6/28). According to Ann Monroe, director of the quality initiative at CHCF, the report is intended to educate seniors about their coverage options (Contra Costa Times, 6/28). The report offers seniors information on how Medicare+Choice plans work, how to choose a plan, which plans offer the best overall value and which plans offer the best value in prescription drug coverage ("Guide to California Medicare HMOs," 6/28).
According to the report, in some counties, the most expensive plans ranked near bottom or last in overall value and often offered the least amount of coverage for prescription drugs. Monroe said, "People often think that if you pay more, you get more, but that's not always the case." In Contra Costa and Alameda counties, for example, PacifiCare of California/Secure Horizon's Basic Plan, one of the most expensive plans with premiums of $100 per month, ranked last in overall value. By comparison, Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage -- with premiums of $30 per month -- is the "best overall value," according to the report. However, the Times reports that Kaiser beneficiaries "rated the plan only average for overall satisfaction and below average when asked about ease of referrals" (Contra Costa Times, 6/28). In particular, prescription drug coverage "was especially inconsistent" among plans, with many plans offering no coverage at all, the report says. Plans that did offer prescription drug coverage tended to cover two-thirds of the average senior's drug costs (CHCF release, 6/28). CHCF plans to distribute the guide to senior centers and to host town meetings to inform seniors of the results (Contra Costa Times, 6/27). For a copy of the report, go to http://hmoguide.chcf.org/ or http://www.consumerreports.org. The report also is available by calling 800-430-2423.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.