GAO: Medicare Advantage plans have cost downsides

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Enrollees in Medicare Advantage plans may pay more for services, such as nursing homes, home healthcare and some hospital stays, than those in traditional Medicare plans, according to a report issued Thursday by the Government Accountability Office.

The Bush administration disagrees. Medicare Advantage plans offer an additional annual value of approximately $1,100 on average to beneficiaries, according to Kerry Weems, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Additionally, insurers estimate that Advantage beneficiaries spend an average of $49 per month in co-payments and deductibles, less that half of what traditional Medicare beneficiaries pay.

The report, however, says that in 2007, "19 percent of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries were in plans that projected higher cost-sharing for home health services, and 16 percent of beneficiaries were in plans that projected higher cost-sharing for inpatient services."