Poor in Part D plans face more premiums in 2010

Of the 3.3 million low-income beneficiaries who have Medicare Part D coverage, 65 percent (2.2 million) will have to choose a new plan in 2010 or face paying a premium if they decide to remain in their current plan, according to a recent Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation report, “Part D Plan Availability in 2010 and Key Changes Since 2006.” CMS will reassign the remaining low-income subsidy (LIS) enrollees.

The report says that the number of benchmark PDPs — those that charge no monthly premium to low-income subsidy enrollees — has decreased. Compared to 2006, there will be 102 fewer plans available in 2010 — a 25 percent decrease. LIS plan availability will decline in 18 of 34 regions between 2009 and 2010, while 13 regions will gain plans. The largest increase in LIS plan availability will occur in Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada.

The number of private organizations that provide benchmark plans has fluctuated over the last five years, according to the report.

In 2006, Humana, UnitedHealth, Wellcare, and WellPoint qualified to offer LIS plans in nearly all regions, but in 2010 Humana will have LIS plans in only three regions and WellPoint will have these plans in only nine regions. The report says that Humana, Universal American, CVS Caremark, UnitedHealth, Wellcare, and WellPoint all had benchmark plans in 23 or more of the 34 regions in 2006, but only Universal American and UnitedHealth will qualify with benchmark plans in as many as 23 regions in 2010.

Source: Georgetown/NORC analysis of CMS PDP landscape source files 2009–2010, for the Kaiser Family Foundation.