Health plans' withdrawals from Medicare+Choice in 2004, while significant, are expected to affect the lowest number of beneficiaries in six years. Managed-care plans will drop about 40,000 Medicare beneficiaries next year, according to a survey by the American Association of Health Plans, whose members represent 87% of total Medicare+Choice enrollment. That compares with 536,000 beneficiaries in 2002 and 198,000 in 2003. Since 1999, more than 2.4 million Medicare+Choice beneficiaries have been affected by insurers pulling out of or scaling back in unprofitable markets. About 4.6 million Americans, or 12% of the nation's 40 million Medicare beneficiaries, are enrolled in private managed-care plans, down from a peak of 6.3 million, or 16% of beneficiaries, in 1999. Aetna, HealthNet and Oxford Health Plans said they would maintain all their Medicare HMO service areas next year. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, a unit of WellPoint Health Networks, will account for 19,000 of the beneficiaries dropped next year. -- by Laura B. Benko
Medicare HMOs plan fewer cuts than in years past
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