As a Medicare beneficiary, you may also be enrolled in other types of coverage, either through the Medicare program or other sources, such as an employer. When you first sign up for Original Medicare, you’ll fill out a form called the Initial Enrollment Questionnaire and be asked whether you have other types of insurance. It’s important to include all other types of coverage you have in this questionnaire. Medicare uses this information when deciding who pays first when you receive health-care services.
Many look to the Veterans Health Administration as a model of lower cost prescription drug coverage. Since the VHA provides healthcare directly, it maintains its own formulary and negotiates prices with manufacturers. Studies show that the VHA pays dramatically less for drugs than the PDP plans Medicare Part D subsidizes. One analysis found that adopting a formulary similar to the VHA's would save Medicare $14 billion a year (over 10 years the savings would be around $140 billion).
Enrollment in public Part C health plans, including Medicare Advantage plans, grew from about 1% of total Medicare enrollment in 1997 when the law was passed (the 1% representing people on pre-law demonstration programs) to about 36% in 2018. Of course the absolute number of beneficiaries on Part C has increased even more dramatically on a percentage basis because of the large increase of people on Original Medicare since 1997. Almost all Medicare beneficiaries have access to at least two public Medicare Part C plans; most have access to three or more.
Medicare supplement Plan F has also been the #1 seller with Baby Boomers for many years. According to a report from America’s Health Insurance professionals, about 57% of all Medigap policies in force were a premium Medicare Plan F policy. (In recent years, Plan G has been the second most popular Medicare supplement plan, and you can read more on that below.)
We found policies that ranged in price from less than $100/month for basic coverage to thousands for maximum protection. There’s no “normal” number, as there are so many factors in play like where you live, your age and needs. A ballpark figure is a couple hundred dollars a month for standard coverage. However, it’s basic economics – the more supplemental insurance you want, the greater the cost.
The PPACA instituted a number of measures to control Medicare fraud and abuse, such as longer oversight periods, provider screenings, stronger standards for certain providers, the creation of databases to share data between federal and state agencies, and stiffer penalties for violators. The law also created mechanisms, such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to fund experiments to identify new payment and delivery models that could conceivably be expanded to reduce the cost of health care while improving quality.
Congress also attempted to reduce payments to public Part C Medicare health plans by aligning the rules that establish Part C plans' capitated fees more closely with the FFS paid for comparable care to "similar beneficiaries" under Parts A and B of Medicare. Primarily these reductions involved much discretion on the part of CMS and examples of what CMS did included effectively ending a Part C program Congress had previously initiated to increase the use of Part C in rural areas (the so-called Part C PFFS plan) and reducing over time a program that encouraged employers and unions to create their own Part C plans not available to the general Medicare beneficiary base (so-called Part C EGWP plans) by providing higher reimbursement. These two types of Part C plans had been identified by MedPAC as the programs that most negatively affected parity between the cost of Medicare beneficiaries on Parts A/B/C and the costs of beneficiaries not on Parts A/B/C. These efforts to reach parity have been more than successful. As of 2015, all beneficiaries on A/B/C cost 4% less per person than all beneficiaries not on A/B/C. But whether that is because the cost of the former decreased or the cost of the latter increased is not known.
The standardized Medigap plans each cover certain Medicare out-of-pocket costs to at least some degree. Every Medigap plan covers up to one year of Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital costs after Medicare benefits are used up. But, for example, Medigap Plan G plans don’t cover your Medicare Part B deductible, while Medigap Plan C plans do. So, if you’d like to enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, you might want to compare the Medigap policies carefully.
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The 2003 payment formulas succeeded in increasing the percentage of rural and inner city poor that could take advantage of the OOP limit and lower co-pays and deductibles—as well as the coordinated medical care—associated with Part C plans. In practice however, one set of Medicare beneficiaries received more benefits than others. The MedPAC Congressional advisory group found in one year the comparative difference for "like beneficiaries" was as high as 14% and have tended to average about 2% higher. The word "like" in the previous sentence is key. MedPAC does not include all beneficiaries in its comparisons and MedPAC will not define what it means by "like" but it apparently includes people who are only on Part A, which severely skews its percentage comparisons—see January 2017 MedPAC meeting presentations. The differences caused by the 2003-law payment formulas were almost completely eliminated by PPACA and have been almost totally phased out according to the 2018 MedPAC annual report, March 2018. One remaining special-payment-formula program—designed primarily for unions wishing to sponsor a Part C plan—is being phased out beginning in 2017. In 2013 and since, on average a Part C beneficiary cost the Medicare Trust Funds 2%-5% less than a beneficiary on traditional fee for service Medicare, completely reversing the situation in 2006-2009 right after implementation of the 2003 law and restoring the capitated fee vs fee for service funding balance to its original intended parity level.