USA Today Editorial Criticizes HMOs for Dropping Seniors
While the managed care industry's recent announcement that it would drop 536,000 Medicare beneficiaries would have been a "huge" news story if not for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a USA Today editorial says that the industry's action is still "galling, ... especially considering [MCOs'] long history of stranding seniors who sign up with them after being promised generous benefits at low costs." The editorial says that the system "worked fine" as long as health plans were "seriously overpaid," but the industry has been "crying poverty" and dropping beneficiaries after Congress "tried to bring payments in line" through the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The editorial notes that last year alone, Medicare+Choice plans dropped about one million seniors. While the plans were dropping beneficiaries, the editorial says that the industry continued to lobby Congress for additional funding, and lawmakers "caved in, lavishing billions on HMOs" last year. Although the industry again is "shaking the tin cup with one hand while shoving seniors into the street with the other," the editorial says that a "more humane approach would be for HMOs to manage their health care plans better so seniors get reliable, cost-effective coverage." The editorial concludes that the industry may not "bother with such hard work" since "no one is paying much attention -- and since Congress has proved such a soft touch" (USA Today, 9/25).