KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

United Health Proposes Managed-Care Plan For Those Who Get Both Medicare And Medicaid

UnitedHealth Group Inc. is proposing a managed-care plan for dual recipients of Medicare and Medicaid.

The insurer said the plan would "save as much as $1.62 trillion in the U.S. over 25 years," Bloomberg reports. "Almost 9 million Americans receive coverage from both Medicare, the U.S. health plan for the elderly and disabled, and the Medicaid program for the poor. UnitedHealth proposed in a report today to combine benefits of the programs into a single plan to better coordinate patient care. … Such a change would increase the number of government beneficiaries on UnitedHealth's rolls, [Simon Stevens, executive vice president of UnitedHealth] said, without providing a specific estimate. … The current payment structure creates a 'tangled web of responsibilities between Medicaid and Medicare' because each program covers different expenses, medical providers must bill separate programs, and no one is accountable for tracking the care patients receive or how much is spent, UnitedHealth said in its report. Providing Medicare and Medicaid benefits through a single insurance plan would simplify coordination of care among doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other providers and would save money by eliminating inefficiencies, the report says" (Young, 10/15).

Meanwhile, "Medicare options for next year are being unveiled, and there will be fewer choices than last year. But that may not be a bad thing," The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post reports. "In a comparison of plans available beginning today, 47 Medicare Advantage plans offered by private insurers include drug coverage, down from 56 in 2010. Medical plans without drug coverage dropped from 15 to 10 and drug-only coverage offerings fell from 47 to 32." The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services "urged insurers to consolidate plans with minuscule differences this year as a way to narrow the options, which can be overwhelming. Prices also are expected to drop slightly for 2011" (Green, 10/14).

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