Seniors Ditch Health Plans, Putting Pricey Care on U.S. Tab

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More American seniors are abandoning private Medicare Advantage health coverage as they age, a trend that could push costly end-of-life care back on to taxpayers, according to a government report.

People covered by the plans in their final year of life switched to the public program more than twice as often as other Medicare Advantage enrollees, according to a report Wednesday from the Government Accountability Office.

Seniors may be switching “because of potential limitations accessing specialized care,” the report said.

Medicare Advantage plans collect a fixed fee from the government and agree to take on the full cost of members’ care. Enrollees get perks like lower out-of-pocket costs and dental and vision benefits. In exchange, they accept more limited networks of care providers and other restrictions.

The plans have become more and more popular in recent years and are a profit center for many big insurers. The U.S. paid $317 billion to private Medicare plans to cover 43 million enrollees in 2020.

Senators Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, and Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, warned in a news release that seniors leaving Medicare Advantage as they near the end of their lives might signal problems with the program and shift costs to taxpayers. They released draft legislation that would require insurers to pay back some of the costs.

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