National insurance giant UnitedHealthcare plans to cut up to 700 Massachusetts doctors from its physician network for seniors enrolled in its private Medicare plan as a way to control costs, according to company officials.
For elderly patients enrolled in the plan, the cuts mean they will have to find a new doctor or eventually switch to a new health plan that covers their current doctor.
The move, effective Sept. 1, follows similar cuts made by the insurer to its Medicare Advantage provider networks in 11 other states, including in Rhode Island and Connecticut, where the reductions drew outrage from patients, doctors, and lawmakers earlier this year.
Note these cuts are for Medicare participants who use Medicare Advantage plans. If you are using standard Medicare with a Medigap supplement you are unaffected by changes to Medicare Advantage programs. Why are Medicare Advantage benefits being cut? You guessed it, Obamacare.
The changes come amid a gradual reduction of reimbursements to private insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans as a way to offset costs associated with President Obama’s health reform law.
Medicare Advantage provides coverage for 30 percent of Americans on Medicare through private insurers. Consumers often prefer the program over traditional Medicare because it is a one-stop shop for hospital and doctor coverage, and often includes prescription drugs, eyeglasses, and gym memberships.
For years the federal government has paid the private plans up to 14 percent more than traditional Medicare for identical services, a benefit to the insurance industry that cost taxpayers an extra $1,000 per beneficiary, according to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, a Washington-based advocacy group. The 2010 federal health law was supposed to close the gap, as well as provide new bonus payments to plans with the highest quality ratings.
Perhaps the decision to select either Medicare Advantage or traditional Medicare should involve a little more thought than the lowest premium?