Study finds seniors unhappy with choices

In a study of more than 200 Medicare health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and more than 1,200 Medicare supplemental insurance policies in 19 cities nationwide, Consumer Reports magazine found that seniors are facing higher out-of-pocket expenses for health care, cutbacks in HMO benefits such as prescription drugs and vision care, and a burdensome array of Medicare choices.

The study’s key findings include:

• Premiums are up 35% on average since 1994 for Medicare supplemental insurance, which offers seniors the greatest flexibility of doctors and hospitals.

• Premiums for Medicare Part B will more than double over the next eight years, from $526 this year to $1,172 in 2006.

• Premiums for Plan C, the most popular of the 10 standard Medicare supplemental plans, are up 41% since 1994.

• Many seniors who signed up with a Medicare HMO because it paid for prescription drugs are finding their plans now limit or have begun to charge for this benefit.

A worksheet that helps consumers evaluate the prescription drug benefits offered by different HMOs is available in the September Consumer Reports as part of the magazine’s special report, "Medicare: New choices, new worries." An interactive version is available on the magazine’s Web site at