President Barack Obama’s promise that “if you like it you can keep it” may be this generation’s “read my lips—no new taxes,” claim. New Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick recently said “Medicare Advantage remains strong and a robust option for millions of seniors who choose to enroll or stay in a participating plan today and in the future.” But seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans offered through one Massachusetts insurer are about to find out otherwise.
Harvard Pilgrim, the state’s second largest insurance company, plans to cancel its Medicare Advantage plan by 2011, forcing 22,000 seniors, who may very well like their current coverage just fine, to find another option. For many, this could mean enrolling in traditional Medicare and Harvard Pilgrim’s Medicare Supplemental plan, which offers similar benefits but at a higher expense.
The company decided to dump Medicare Advantage because Harvard Pilgrim “became concerned by the long-term viability of Medicare Advantage programs in general,” said Lynn Bowman, Vice President of Customer Service. “We know that cuts in Medicare are being used to fund national health care reform. And we also had concerns about our ability to build a network of health care providers that would meet the needs of our seniors.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Medicare Advantage plans are beginning to drop like flies. In April, CMS Chief Actuary Richard Foster wrote: “We estimate that in 2017, when the MA provisions will be fully phased in, enrollment in MA plans will be lower by about 50 percent.” Furthermore, in recent Heritage research, Robert Book, Ph.D., and James Capretta noted “the MA cuts will substantially restrict the ability of Medicare beneficiaries to choose the health plans that best meet their needs and will result in substantial reductions in coverage for many millions of seniors.”
But time has shown there’s an unmistakable gap between the President’s promises and the reality of the new health care law. For seniors losing the option to keep their current Medicare Advantage plans, that gap will be all too real, starting next year.
This post was co-authored by Derek Pyburn.