Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Effort To Reward Medicare Advantage Plans Draws Criticism - Kaiser Health News

By Julie Appleby

Lake Wobegon has come to Medicare – and a key advisory panel doesn't like it.

The panel, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPac), in a Jan. 6 letter does not mention the fictional Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average. But it hints that not every Medicare Advantage insurer deserves to be above average.

The letter, to Dr. Donald Berwick, who heads the agency overseeing Medicare, criticizes a move to extend quality bonus payments meant for top-performing health insurers to those with lower scores. In fact, the new bonus program will reward even those plans highlighted on Medicare's own website as being poor performers over three consecutive years, according to the letter signed by MedPac Chairman Glenn Hackbarth.

The effort by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will likely result in "far greater program costs" than the reward system called for by Congress in the health law and reduces insurers' incentive to achieve high performance, the letter concludes.

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