Issues regarding health plan payments under Medicare and recommendations for reform.

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The failures of the market for current Medicare health plans include poor information and price distortions and can be attributed to government policy. Reforms that could improve its structure are annual open enrollment periods, premium rebates from health management organizations (HMOs) to members, and termination of the federal government's subsidy of Medicare supplementary insurance. However, the price for a basic Medicare benefits package would still be distorted because Medicare bases its contribution on the cost of a comparable package in the fee-for-service (FFS) sector rather than on the cost of the most efficient plan available to beneficiaries in each market area. The present Medicare HMO program almost certainly increases total Medicare costs and actually discourages HMO growth by shielding beneficiaries from the true price difference between basic benefits in the HMO and FFS sectors. Lacking payment reforms, the Medicare HMO program should be terminated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-453
Number of pages31
JournalThe Milbank quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992


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