By Mary Johnson
Senior voters just endured a tsunami of fact checks, competing truth squads and battling claims over the candidates' plans for Medicare. But post-election reality is setting in and lame duck lawmakers are returning to a number of thorny Medicare issues that require immediate and bipartisan cooperation. Topping the priority list is $123 billion in Medicare cuts over the next ten years that are scheduled to go into effect "automatically" on February 1st, 2013. All of the cuts will come from payments to insurance plans and providers who treat Medicare patients. Could that impact you? Possibly.
The $123 billion in cuts were part of the 2011 debt limit deal, and they are in addition to an estimated $716 billion in Medicare reductions under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Both include cuts in reimbursements to Medicare Advantage plans (along with almost every other type of healthcare provider). Currently almost 30% of Medicare beneficiaries rely on Medicare Advantage plans to receive their Medicare benefits.
Medicare Advantage plans provide all Medicare Part A and B benefits and many also offer Part D coverage. The plans have been popular with seniors because they offer lower premiums (some even a zero premium) than most traditional Medicare supplements and often offer additional benefits that Medicare doesn’t cover, like vision or dental coverage. Advocates, including TSCL, are concerned that plans may trim additional benefits, raise premiums and cost-sharing, or both, to make up for reductions in government reimbursements in coming years. Medicare Advantage plans recently sent out notifications of changes for 2013.
TSCL is reviewing the changes of plan costs during the Medicare Open Enrollment season, which started October 15th, and runs through December 7th. If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, take time to review changes now. To compare all the plans in your area, use the Health Plan finder at www.Medicare.gov.