Washington Millions of seniors who signed up for popular private health plans through Medicare are facing sharp premium increases this year — another sign that spiraling costs are a problem even for those with solid insurance.
A study released Friday by a major consulting firm found that premiums for Medicare Advantage plans offering medical and prescription drug coverage jumped 14.2 percent on average in 2010, after an increase of only 5.2 percent the previous year. Some 8.5 million elderly and disabled Americans are in the plans, which provide more comprehensive coverage than traditional Medicare, often at lower cost.
Lee Durrwachter, a retired chemical engineer from Grand Marais, Mich., said his premiums more than doubled this year — even though he switched plans to try to save money. “It doesn’t bode well,” Durrwachter said. “It’s unaffordable.”
The Medicare findings are bad news for President Barack Obama and his health care overhaul that is bogged down in Congress. That’s because the higher Medicare Advantage premiums for 2010 followed a cut in government payments to the private plans last year.
And the Democratic bills pending in Congress call for even more cuts, which are expected to force many seniors to drop out of what has been a rapidly growing alternative to traditional Medicare.