But that has not been the case at all. Medicare Advantage enrollment continues to grow each year. There were 19 million Advantage enrollees in 2017, which is about a third of all Medicare beneficiaries, who totaled about 58 million in 2017). The number of Medicare Advantage plans available has been fairly steady since 2011 (2,034 in 2016, up from 1,945 in 2015; but down from a high of 2,830 in 2009). The majority of beneficiaries still have at least one zero-premium plan available to them, and the average enrollee could select from among 21 plans in 2018, which was slightly higher than it had been at any point since 2011 (but this is still down significantly from 48 plans in 2009).
Tufts Health Unify, our Medicare-Medicaid One Care plan for people ages 21 – 64, gives you access to a network of providers, a dedicated care manager, a personalized care plan, and much more. You may be eligible for Tufts Health Unify if you live in Suffolk or Worcester counties of Massachusetts, are between the ages of 21 and 64, and are now enrolled in both Medicare and MassHealth.
Medicare thus finds itself in the odd position of having assumed control of the single largest funding source for graduate medical education, currently facing major budget constraints, and as a result, freezing funding for graduate medical education, as well as for physician reimbursement rates. This has forced hospitals to look for alternative sources of funding for residency slots. This halt in funding in turn exacerbates the exact problem Medicare sought to solve in the first place: improving the availability of medical care. However, some healthcare administration experts believe that the shortage of physicians may be an opportunity for providers to reorganize their delivery systems to become less costly and more efficient. Physician assistants and Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners may begin assuming more responsibilities that traditionally fell to doctors, but do not necessarily require the advanced training and skill of a physician.
Medicare Part A provides payments for in-patient hospital, hospice, and skilled nursing services. Part B provides payments for most physician and surgical services, even some in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, as well as for medically-necessary outpatient hospital services such as ER, surgical center, laboratory, X-rays and diagnostic tests, certain preventative medical services, and certain durable medical equipment and supplies. Part C health plans, including Medicare Advantage plans, not only cover the same medical services as Parts A and B but also typically include an annual physical exam and vision and/or dental coverage of some sort not covered under Original Medicare Parts A and B. Less often, hearing and wellness benefits not found in Original Medicare are included in a Medicare Advantage plan. The most important difference between a Part C health plan and FFS Original Medicare is that all Part C plans, including capitated-fee Medicare Advantage plans, include a limit on how much a beneficiary will have to spend annually out of pocket; that amount is unlimited in Original Medicare Parts A and B.
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.
OptumRx is an affiliate of UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company. You are not required to use OptumRx home delivery for a 90-day supply of your maintenance medication. $0 copay may be restricted to particular tiers, preferred medications, or mail order prescriptions during the initial coverage phase and may not apply during the coverage gap or catastrophic stage.
Several measures serve as indicators of the long-term financial status of Medicare. These include total Medicare spending as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), the solvency of the Medicare HI trust fund, Medicare per-capita spending growth relative to inflation and per-capita GDP growth; general fund revenue as a share of total Medicare spending; and actuarial estimates of unfunded liability over the 75-year timeframe and the infinite horizon (netting expected premium/tax revenue against expected costs). The major issue in all these indicators is comparing any future projections against current law vs. what the actuaries expect to happen. For example, current law specifies that Part A payments to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities will be cut substantially after 2028 and that doctors will get no raises after 2025. The actuaries expect that the law will change to keep these events from happening.
CMS and MedPAC now believe the "like beneficiary" calculations (those on A/B vs those on A/B/C) that have been used for a decade and that underlay many changes made by PPACA and subsequent regulations are not comparative and are misleading (see slide 8 of the January 12, 2017 MedPAC session on Medicare Advantage and other discussions on this subject since that time). That is because the calculations include the increasing number of people only on Part A (primarily because they did not "retire" at 65 given the higher Social Security full retirement age but did join Medicare Part A at 65 as recommended) whereas a "like" Medicare Part C beneficiary has to be on both Parts A and Part B. On an absolute basis, in 2015 Medicare spent 4% less on Medicare Advantage and other Part C beneficiaries per person than they did per person on Medicare beneficiaries under FFS Medicare. In 2014 the difference in parity on an absolute basis was 2% less per person on Part C. It appears from both points of view—per "like beneficiary" and absolutely—that the latest formula delivers the original cost-saving promise of Managed Medicare. But an absolute comparison is not totally accurate either.
If you’re eligible at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after that birthday. However, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you have another chance each year to sign up during a “general enrollment period” from January 1 through March 31. Your coverage begins on July 1 of the year you enroll. Read our Medicare publication for more information.