Medicare Advantage Plans Expand Coverage to Seniors, Lower Costs for Enrollees

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HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced on Wednesday that Medicare Advantage plans were seeking to expand coverage to 1.6 million additional seniors and persons with disabilities, while also lowering their premium and out of pocket covered services costs by an average of 10 percent and providing more benefits -- evidence that the new Medicare Modernization law is a successful investment in seniors and their access to better health care benefits.

Secretary Thompson said that 35 Medicare Advantage plans had made new applications to provide coverage and 22 had applied for expansion of service areas. If approved this translates into 1.6 million additional Medicare beneficiaries living in 93 counties and 11 states who will have access to Medicare Advantage plans. This expansion is on top of the nearly 5 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans who will continue to receive high quality care at affordable costs in 2005.

In addition to an overall expansion of coverage areas, initial analysis show that plan premiums and cost sharing for Medicare-covered services are declining on average by 10 percent, while plans continue to provide more benefits not covered by fee-for-service Medicare, including drugs, dental, vision and preventive and wellness services, providing average savings of about $23 per month.

"The new Medicare Modernization law is expanding access to health care for seniors and lowering their costs," Secretary Thompson said. "We made an investment in seniors and it is paying off with greater access to health care at more affordable costs. Under President Bush's leadership, we are reversing a trend of seniors losing access to Medicare Advantage plans each year to an environment where plans are expanding coverage and lowering costs."

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The expansion of Medicare Advantage plans to provide more health care access to seniors represents a significant shift from years of plans dropping out of the Medicare Advantage program and reducing seniors' access to coverage.

"The steps Congress and the Administration have taken to stabilize the Medicare Advantage program are keeping costs down for Medicare beneficiaries," Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator (CMS) Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. said. "With a turnaround in the availability of health plans that provide coordinated care in Medicare, we expect that many more Medicare beneficiaries will have access to the savings in Medicare Advantage plans in 2005, on our way to even broader availability of less costly, comprehensive coverage in 2006."

CMS will post the plan benefits and premiums on www.medicare.gov on Oct. 19. The same information will be available by calling 1-800-MEDICARE and is currently being mailed as part of the Medicare & You 2005 handbook that should be arriving in beneficiaries' homes within the next couple of weeks.

Because of hurricane activity, beneficiaries in Florida will begin to receive their Medicare & You 2005 handbooks the first week of November and be able to see updated information on www.medicare.gov at that time as well. Beneficiaries in Florida also have an extended open enrollment period that ends Jan. 31, 2005.

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The source of this article is http://www.hhs.gov

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