Be careful with decisions about Medicare Advantage plans

Tue, 02/06/2007 - 5:40pm
By: The Citizen

ATLANTA (GA) – After receiving complaints from Medicare beneficiaries about Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, GeorgiaCares SMP is encouraging Georgians to use caution, make informed healthcare decisions, and use the resources of GeorgiaCares SMP during the open enrollment period, January 1 – March 31.

Beneficiaries are complaining that insurance agents are not making them fully aware of MA benefits and are not informing them that enrollment may require changing doctors, specialists or hospitals. They are also being enrolled without consent.

Medicare does not go door-to-door and insurance agents cannot solicit business without making an appointment, so GeorgiaCares SMP is encouraging beneficiaries to request all information be sent to them in writing to review before making a final decision to enroll in a MA or other healthcare plan.

“Although legitimate Medicare Advantage plans can be of benefit to some, there is the potential for more fraud during the open enrollment period. We encourage beneficiaries to be cautious when approached about changing healthcare plans,” said Maria Greene, Director of Division of Aging Services (DAS).

The GeorgiaCares SMP, which is administered through the Georgia Department of Human Resources/DAS, provides community education, counseling and referrals relating to Medicare and Medicaid error, fraud and abuse. SMP projects are funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging.

If beneficiaries choose to enroll in a MA plan, they should be aware that they: have the same rights and protections offered by Medicare; will receive the same services as Original Medicare; may receive extra benefits in addition to what Original Medicare covers (this may include dental, hearing and vision care); will still pay the Medicare Part B premium, but directly to the MA plan; are responsible for any premium the MA plan may charge; and may be responsible for other costs associated with receiving healthcare services.

To report a MA complaint, call

GeorgiaCares SMP at 1-800-669-8387.

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Submitted by mspeard on Tue, 06/30/2009 - 2:07am.

According to Paul Precht with the Medicare Rights Center, “If you join a Medicare Advantage plan and are getting additional benefits and you are not paying the premium that’s because the government is paying the premium directly to the plan through a subsidy.”

More on that here: Medicare Supplements

Submitted by mspeard on Tue, 06/16/2009 - 9:19pm.

A new bill called The Medicare Prompt Pay Correction Act has been introduced by the U.S. Senate. This bill is a companion to HR 1392. HR 1392 has 45 co-sponsors currently. Senator Arlen Specter and Pat Roberts introduced the bill. It is meant to correct medicare reimbursement problems connected with cancer drugs.

You can get more information about Medicare Part A B C in the link provided.

Submitted by helpful lawyer on Mon, 02/12/2007 - 9:13am.

It is not true that the Medicare Part B monthly premium of $93.50 will be payable to the insurer providing a Medicare Advantage plan when a Medicare beneficiary chooses a Medicare Advantage plan. That premium continues to be paid to the Medicare administration.

Medicare Advantage plans rearrange the benefits provided under the regular Medicare plan. While each one is different, generally the plans eliminate the annual deductible amount for medical services and they provide for a co-pay amount upon each doctor visit, also eliminating the bill for 20% of the fee approved by Medicare. (That’s good for the doctor, and it’s also good for the patient.)

Medicare Advantage plans generally provide for lower deductibles for hospital stays covered under Medicare Part A, and they provide better benefits for catastrophic events. They also provide benefits for those who travel outside the USA, and some even offer free gym memberships to help their members stay healthy. Most also include the Part D prescription drug benefit.

Medicare Advantage plans are provided by insurance companies. These insurers get their money mostly from the Medicare administration, perhaps as much as $800 a month per person, and they charge a small extra amount per month (under $100) to their Medicare Advantage plan customers.

These insurers generally use insurance agents to sell these plans, but Medicare beneficiaries don’t need to use an agent. The premium is the same whether an agent is involved or not.

There are enough Medicare Advantage plans to make life confusing, and their availability can vary from county to county. Here, in Fayette County, the main ones in 2007 seem to be those of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and of Humana. Blue Cross even has one with a zero extra premium, but that one offers no drug coverage (the drug coverage can be bought separately from someone else).

Medicare Advantage plans should not be confused with the so-called Medigap plans which offer to pay supplemental benefits which fill the gaps from the regular Medicare deductibles and the 20% co-payments. Medigap plans are not needed and not permitted for people with a Medicare Advantage plan.

It is easier to pick an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen than it is at Baskins-Robbins, because Baskins-Robbins offers so many flavors and it’s hard to decide. Same story with all these Medicare plans. There are many flavors to choose from, but the freedom of choice is, on balance, wonderful.

Medicare Advantage plans are managed by insurance companies in the private sector, though under fairly strict controls by the Medicare administration, and our federal government believes this can bring about more efficient management. These plans are thus favored by the government, and the insurance companies receive subsidies which enable them to provide better benefits for their clients and to make profits too.

Submitted by Lucid Lee on Sun, 03/04/2007 - 8:40am.

Sounds good for the person who is homebound and has a few health problems.... but, just try to go to Texas to keep warm for the winter. You can get your prescriptions fairly easy, except for narcotic pain medications. The Red Tape and Restrictions are a nightmare, to get a $5.00 co-pay bottle of Oxycodone. After you have spent hours on the phone with Humana, your Dr. and others, trying to figure out why they all tell you a different story, it will be cheaper to go to Mexico to get your Prescription filled for much less problems, but don't try to come back to Texas with that Prescription.

I have several pages of notes and names from Humana, Medicare, the Doctor's office, the Insurance General's office, and other Doctors and Pharmacies from Mexico, Texas, Missouri, and the Social Security Adm. who do not seem to have the same story regarding my being able to get all of my necessary medications, when I travel between Missouri and Texas to save money on heating costs. If you want to follow the Rules, you must change Insurance Companies, but you can only do that once a year, so forget about going to Texas for 4 months for the winter, because if you do, you won't have any insurance coverage for the rest of the year, because you can only change your Ins Co. once a year...... they told me.

I am convinced, the Insurance Companies have a built in restriction against anyone traveling without a great deal of problems and expense in resolving the Red Tape you will run into, once you cross a state line. When you do fix that problem, you will be creating another when you return. You won't realize how complicated it is until you go to Texas for the winter..... and need pain meds.

Lucid Lee

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