Retired chemist Edward Schokowitz was incredulous when he received a letter from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey early last month saying his Medicare Advantage Plan, which had no premium, would be eliminated next year.
“They took all the senior citizens and threw us out of the plan. They now want to give us the same plan for $153 [per month],” he told the Daily Caller. “The President said you can’t be kicked out of your plan. He lies.”
Schokowitz is one of many Medicare beneficiaries now learning that — like Americans who buy insurance on the individual market — they are losing their insurance, and in some cases their doctors, under Obamacare.
Private insurance companies that cover patients with government funds under the Medicare Advantage program have quietly started to dump doctors and patients because of Obamacare budget cuts.
Schkowitz, 75, who lives in a senior citizen complex near Atlantic City, would also pay more for prescription drugs under the new plan. The co-pay for a three-month supply of one of his medications increases next year from $7.50 to $54.00.
Thousands of New Jersey residents are suffering the same fate . Currently, 74,000 Garden State residents are enrolled in Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage. Nearly half have zero-premium plans.
But in 2014, New Jersey Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is eliminating all zero-premium plans with prescription drug coverage and all but two of its other plans with monthly fees.
New Jersey Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesman Tom Vincz tells the Daily Caller that “due to rising health care costs and cuts to Medicare Advantage we had to make these product changes.”
The company is asking elected officials to avoid further cuts to the program, “We’ve been lobbying Congress to help insure that Medicare Advantage is appropriately funded to avoid further increases in premiums and changes in the product,” Vincz told TheDC. “We are hoping to make this a one time experience.”
Federal payments to Medicare Advantage HMOs will decrease seven to eight percent in 2014, according to one prominent health care industry analyst.
Overall, the Affordable Care Act slashes Medicare Advantage funding by $156 billion in ten years, a reduction that Democrats and many journalists long insisted would not harm patients. Republicans, however, have continually warned of dire consequences.
Now, insurance companies, feeling squeezed, are nixing doctor contracts and patient plans to save money. Medicare Advantage plans are being dropped all over the country.
Nearly 4,000 UnitedHealthCare Medical Advantage members in Hawaii will have their plan terminated next year, according to the Honololu Star-Advertiser.
UnitedHealthCare Medical Advantage is also eliminating two plans in Broward County, Florida.