M+C Enrollees Bound to Their Choice Until June

A lock-in mechanism for Medicare+Choice that kicked in Jan. 1 narrows the period during which enrollees can switch from health plan to health plan.

Under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, beneficiaries can no longer switch from one health care option to another at will — as they could do from 1998 through 2001.

This year, Medicare beneficiaries are allowed to drop their Medicare+Choice plan only until the end of June. Next year, voluntary disenrollment will be allowed only during the first three months of the year.

Plan-switching is common, particularly for beneficiaries who have reached caps on benefits, such as prescription drugs.

A CMS official tells the Health Policy Report that to ensure compliance, CMS is developing a system that will help it identify which enrollees are in which plans, and to block those who are ineligible to switch from doing so.

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