Texas Medicare plans and those of other states, as well, will encounter even more changes over the next few years. Seniors who participate in Medicare Advantage, the supplemental insurance offered by Medicare, will find that their choice of the 12 policies provided by MA may no longer be offered.

Formed in 2003 in a move to privatize Medicare, Medicare Advantage provided seniors with an opportunity to choose their own insurance providers in receiving their Medicare payments. In the past, MA has offered 12 different insurance policies to its participants. This allowed the recipients to choose from 4 different types of insurance coverage, with some options in the way their supplement dollars and Medicare dollars were spent.

The number of plans will be dramatically reduced, leaving seniors with fewer choices. In addition, benefits from MA will be reduced, as well as enrollment opportunities. By 2017, MA participants for the most part will find that their plans are no longer available, and those that remain will yield reduced benefits and higher premiums, deductibles, and copays. Many of those who would have chosen MA will, instead, be limited to the Medicare fee-for-service plans, which are also facing cuts.

By 2017, the average MA enrollee will lose $3700 in medical services. The new county quartile ranking will leave some counties in the U.S. completely without access to MA plans, and the other counties in the country will have 66% fewer choices for coverage  for their residents.

Texas Medicare plans will witness a 60% decrease in MA enrollment. By 2015, plan choices will be reduced by 30%, and by 2015, the choices will be lower by 50%.

Those facing the greatest hit will be senior with chronic conditions. They will not get to keep their doctors. Many seniors who participate in MA do so because they want to use certain doctors, specialists, or hospitals. They shop around through the 12 policies that are now available to MA, to find a policy with their preferred providers in the network. As the number of policies decrease, so will the choices available to seniors. This will also disrupt the seniors’ continuity of care, as they transfer from specialist to specialist, and doctor to doctor, transferring medical files and treatment regimens.

Texas Medicare plans offer seniors a “one stop shop” in their Medicare services. By privatizing Medicare, insurance companies approved by Medicare are able to help seniors not only control their own medical expenses, but also receive discounted services from the insurance companies’ networks. Vision, Dental, and low cost prescription coverage have resulted. Most of the people who participate in MA are those who would otherwise have to apply for Medicaid, or who are just above the eligibility level for Medicaid.

The lower cost sharing for MA participants has provided the participating seniors an opportunity to receive a more comprehensive medical program for the money. Many feel that since the MA program partially privatizes a government service, it should be halted.