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A First Look at How Medicare Advantage Benefits and Premiums in Individual Enrollment Plans are Changing from 2008 to 2009

Marsha Gold and Maria Cupples Hudson of Mathematica Policy Research have analyzed newly released data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to describe the benefits and premiums that enrollees had from Medicare Advantage (MA) plans in 2008 and how they changed in 2009. Their results show a small increase in the number of MA plans—from 3,307 in 2008 to 3,354 in 2009; 350,000 enrollees, mostly in private fee-for-service plans, had to switch plans for 2009 because their plans were no longer offered. MA premiums and cost sharing varies substantially across plans. In choosing a plan, MA enrollees tend to focus on zero premium plans that provide some drug coverage in the Part D donut hole. As structured, MA plans vary in the protection provided beneficiaries against out-of-pocket costs for Part A and Part B, and the costs are highest for those whose needs result in more use of care.

The analysis used CMS’s newly available public data on MA plan enrollment by contract, plan, and county and included both unweighted and weighted estimates, focusing on plans open to all beneficiaries. (16 pages)

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