A report released today by the Commonwealth Fund shows a dramatic increase in out-of-pocket costs for Medicare+Choice enrollees. The costs rose ten percent between 2002 and 2003 and have doubled since 1999.
The report also shows enrollees in Medicare PPO pay about 50 percent more in out-of-pocket costs than their Medicare+Choice counterparts and more than traditional Medicare enrollees, as well. Report authors Marsha Gold and Lori Achman of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. question if these plans really offer a less costly alternative for Medicare beneficiaries. Gold states, "Moving to private plans to generate savings is not realistic. There is no out-of-pocket cost limit."
More alarming is the high out-of-pocket costs for Medicare+Choice enrollees in poor health. The Commonwealth report found sicker enrollees pay three times as much and their rates increase faster than enrollees in who are in good health. Between 1999 and 2003 the average healthy enrollee's costs went from $836 to $1, 564. The average cost for a sicker person from 1999 to 2003 rose from $2,211 to $5,305.
Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund says, "Health insurance is designed to protect individuals from high health care costs that could inflict financial hardship. The steady increasing financial burden on sicker beneficiaries is of notable concern."