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HHS Secretary Says Health Insurance Law Big Advantage to Medicare

Ernie Shannon's picture

Proclaiming another success story regarding the Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that Medicare Advantage premiums have dropped seven percent while enrollment in the program has grown by 10 percent during the last year.

Sebelius said the new numbers are in line with Obama Administration predictions last September that enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans would continue to rise and average premiums would continue to fall. She said that average premiums have fallen from $33.97 in 2011 to $31.54 so far this year. Enrollment rose by 1.1 million people since last year to more than 12.8 million individuals.

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The news comes as the Obama Administration preps for next month’s hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court when the nine justices will hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of the law’s mandate that every American carry health insurance. While the battle over the mandate could go either way when the high court decides the case in June, the administration will argue that the remainder of the law should be upheld. To that end, news like the Medicare Advantage enrollment growth is evidence of the health reform measure’s success.

“The Medicare Advantage program is stronger than ever,” said Sebelius. “and thanks to the Affordable Care Act we have unprecedented new tool to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities are getting the best value out of their coverage.”

Once called Medicare + Choice, the program has been known as Medicare Advantage since 2003. It allows enrollees to receive all their medical services through a private insurer or provider organization that is paid a lump sum by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. According to Health and Human Services there are 26 Medicare Advantage plans to choose from in nearly every county across the country. The agency also said today that starting this year, Medicare Advantage plans will start receiving incentives to achieve high quality scores through the use of quality bonus payments. As an extra incentive for high quality performance, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is allowing Five-Star Medicare Advantage and Part D plans to continuously market and enroll beneficiaries throughout the year.

Federal government figures show that 46 million Americans were covered by Medicare in 2010 of whom eight million were under the age of 65 and permanently disabled. Medicare, the country's affordable health insurance program has four parts to it: Part A called hospital insurance; Part B is concerned with medical insurance; Part C is Medicare Advantage; and Part D covers prescription drugs.