One thing most people can agree on about America's healthcare delivery system is that it is confusing. Take the alphabet of Medicare services for example. Part C, Medicare Advantage, is actually extra health insurance coverage offered by private insurance companies. Six of these plans have recently been accused of breaking insurance marketing rules in ways that may have placed seniors at risk says the Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The health insurance companies singled out for behaving badly include Aetna, Universal American Corporation, Freedom Heath Plans in Florida, MD Care in California, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, and Sterling Insurance. Accusations of rule breaking include:
These same plans have been in trouble in the past, but they are not alone. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), reports of deceptive marketing practices in Medicare Advantage are widespread. The report from the Inspector General's office says that although these six companies have been singled out, there is no reason to suspect their behavior is much different from the other 260 companies that offer Medicare Advantage.
It is almost impossible to separate out the truth from the politics of healthcare reform. We do know that the new plan phases out government subsidies that go to Medicare Advantage. Depending on which side of the argument you’re hearing, that will result in billions of dollars cut from seniors' Medicare benefits or it will extend the life of Medicare and cut wasteful spending. Here are some truths:
Take a deep breath—there is good news. The AMA, AARP and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) all support the new healthcare reform package. Though it will take time to see all the benefits of changes to the healthcare system, nobody is coming to take away your doctor. Also keep in mind: