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14.4 million sign up for Medicare Advantage

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 17, 2013

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The Medicare Advantage program has continued to experience accelerated growth, with more than 1 million new beneficiaries enrolling in the private health plans in 2013, a Kaiser Family Foundation study reported.

Medicare Advantage enrollment has increased 30% since 2010, when changes to the program were implemented under the Affordable Care Act. At the time, many health care experts and insurers said they were concerned that new regulations and rate cuts would harm the private plans. Currently, 14.4 million people, or 28% of Medicare beneficiaries, are enrolled in Medicare Advantage.

“The payment reductions have not been fully phased in, and quality-based bonus payments have partly offset the payment reductions,” the June 10 report states. “Future trends are uncertain.”

In April, Medicare officials announced that payments to the private plans will increase 3.3% in 2014. The rate reflects the likelihood of Congress preventing a roughly 25% cut to Medicare physician payment rates scheduled for 2014. Lawmakers have stopped similar doctor pay reductions since 2003.

The Kaiser Family Foundation analysis also found that 98% of beneficiaries have access to a no-premium Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan, but 45% of enrollees select plans that charge premiums, including some that are charging more than $100 a month. The average drug plan costs $35 a month.

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