WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs are projected to increase by 11 percent next year with premiums remaining steady, a U.S. official says.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said due to the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Medicare Advantage premiums fell by 10 percent, while enrollment rose 28 percent.
"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug programs have been strengthened and continue to improve for beneficiaries," Sebelius said in a statement. "Since the law was enacted in 2010, average premiums have gone down, enrollment has gone up, and new benefits and lower drug costs continue to help millions of seniors and people with disabilities."
For the third year in a row, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services used authority provided by the Affordable Care Act to protect beneficiaries from significant increases in costs or cuts in benefits.
"The average Medicare Advantage premium in 2013 is projected to increase by only $1.47 from last year, coming to $32.59. However, if beneficiaries choose lower cost plans at the same rate in 2013, as they did in 2012, the average premium is expected to increase by only 57 cents," Sebelius said in a statement. "Access to the Medicare Advantage program will remain strong, with 99.6 percent of beneficiaries having access to a plan."
Medicare Advantage, which allows seniors to leave traditional Medicare for a healthcare plan conducted by a private insurance company, had been costing 14 percent more to the taxpayer each year, and some feared as this subsidy was phased out Medicare Advantage's premiums would rise or benefits cut.
However, the Affordable Care Act has reduced the overpayments while maintaining benefits and keeping premiums low, Brian Cook, a spokesman of the CMS, told UPI.