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Medicare premiums drop, enrollment rises in health care law

USA Today, September 16, 2011

Medicare Advantage premiums fell while enrollment rose this year, despite predictions from opponents of the new federal healthcare law that it would drive down enrollment and force up premiums. Department of Health and Human Services officials said Thursday that enrollment will rise another 10% in 2012 and that premiums will fall 4%. Extra benefits in some Medicare Advantage plans, such as for vision or hearing, also are expected to remain the same. The new statistics disprove the doom-and-gloom predictions of last year and show that because of the new law, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "Medicare is stronger than ever. On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will go down next year and seniors will enjoy more free benefits and cheaper prescription drugs," she said. Medicare Advantage allows seniors to leave traditional Medicare and choose private health insurance plans, including health maintenance organizations or preferred provider organizations. However, the Office of Management and Budget found in 2009 that the program cost about 10% more than regular Medicare.