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Extended Deadline 1st Step in Saving Medicare+Choice

Managed care plans got a break, until Sept. 17, to decide whether to be in Medicare+ Choice next year. By pushing back the deadline from July 1, the Department of Health and Human Services hoped that plans that are wavering about next year will decide to stay in.

Exiting Medicare isn't a decision plans take lightly; the law prohibits those that leave from coming back for two years. But with costs mounting, 118 plans last year reduced service territory or bolted altogether, which, by the Health Care Financing Administration's own reckoning, displaced 934,000 people.

Expanding M+C tops HCFA administrator Thomas Scully's agenda. "We're going to make a big effort to keep people from bailing out," Scully told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — boldly predicting that enrollment would double in four years. Long on optimism but short on specifics, Scully said he'd eliminate some administrative requirements that plans have called burdensome. He is noncommittal on the subject of more health plan funding.

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