With Mergers, Concerns Grow About Private Medicare

As some of the nation’s largest health insurers plan to merge, a new report raises fresh concern over the lack of competition in the private Medicare market. The analysis, released on Tuesday, concludes “there is little competition anywhere in the nation.” The report from the Commonwealth Fund, a research group, looked at the market share of insurance companies offering private Medicare Advantage plans in 2012. The authors found that 97 percent of markets in United States counties were “highly concentrated,” in which a small number of insurers dominated. The lack of competition was worse in rural markets. UnitedHealth Group, Humana, and Aetna are all major players in the private Medicare Advantage market. While UnitedHealth remains independent, Humana and Aetna announced this year that they planned to combine forces. Proponents of these plans say competition from private insurers benefits consumers by reducing Medicare costs and improving the quality of their coverage. The study’s findings come at a point when the proposed mergers of Aetna and Humana, as well as that of Anthem and Cigna, could allow the nation’s largest insurers to gain even more leverage in a market. Consumer advocates and others have raised concerns over whether individuals will benefit from the mergers, which reduce the number of the five largest for-profit companies to three.

Source/more: New York Times

David Wingate is an elder law attorney who practices in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. The elder law practice consists of wills, trusts, powers of attorneys, asset protection, and Medicaid planning.

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