Nearly all Dallas County Medicare beneficiaries would have paid higher premiums to stay in their current programs in 2010 if seniors were given a fixed amount of money to purchase insurance, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.
Dallas County seniors in the traditional Medicare program would have paid an additional $78 a month, while the average additional premium for those enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs would have been $104 a month, the study found. There are about 240,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Dallas County.
Dallas is considered a high-cost county for Medicare, defined as such because it is among the top quartile of traditional Medicare per-capita costs.
Harris, which includes Houston, also is considered a high-cost county. According to the study, traditional Medicare beneficiaries would pay $85 more per month and Medicare Advantage members would pay $70 more monthly.
About 75 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are in the traditional Medicare plan, while the remaining 25 percent participate in Medicare Advantage. Most beneficiaries pay $99.90 a month for a standard Part B premium.
Nationally, six out of 10 Medicare beneficiaries would have faced higher premiums if they did not switch to cheaper plans.
The study modeled a general version of premium support under which beneficiaries would have received a specific subsidy to buy insurance in a competitive marketplace rather than the current system that guarantees a set of benefits.
Kaiser researchers emphasized that the simulation was not based on the plan supported by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, because their proposal lacked specifics.
Like the Romney-Ryan plan, the model assumes Medicare payments would be tied to the cost of the second-lowest private insurance plan locally. Seniors could select a private plan or a public plan based on traditional Medicare. If their choices cost more than the government payment, they would pay the balance.
The Romney-Ryan plan keeps the current Medicare system in place for current beneficiaries and those currently 10 years from eligibility.
Steve Jacob is editor of D Healthcare Daily and author of the new book Health Care in 2020: Where Uncertain Reform, Bad Habits, Too Few Doctors and Skyrocketing Costs Are Taking Us. He can be reached at email@example.com.