Medicare Advantage enrollment grows 10% as insurers compete

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Enrollment in Medicare Advantage has grown by 10 percent. Meanwhile, premiums have fallen at an average 7 percent as insurers compete for seniors' business, the Department of Health & Human Services announced Wednesday.

Roughly 12.8 million seniors now are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage health plan, up from 11.7 million in 2011. Average monthly premiums fell from $33.97 in 2011 to $31.54 this year. In total, Medicare Advantage premiums have dropped by 16 percent, and enrollment has increased by 17 percent since health reform law passed in 2010, reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

"We're seeing a very competitive landscape," Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told USA Today. "The plans seem to want to compete hard for their beneficiaries."

In fact, the CEOs of several large insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans, including WellPoint, Humana and UnitedHealth, have predicted their Medicare business will continue to grow, the USA Today reported.

HHS also said seniors are getting better coverage as they increasingly enroll in four- and five-star private Medicare plans. "The Affordable Care Act has strengthened Medicare Advantage by motivating plans to improve the quality of their coverage," said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

However, Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, warned that the reform law's biggest cuts to Medicare Advantage don't come until 2015 so insurers shouldn't start celebrating just yet, reported Kaiser Health News.

"When you take $200 billion out of the program, it's going to have a real impact on seniors," Zirkelbach told KHN. "These cuts will result in higher out-of-pocket costs and reduced benefits for seniors in Medicare Advantage."

To learn more:
- read the USA Today article
- see the Kaiser Health News article
- check out The Hill's Healthwatch article
- see the HHS press release

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