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Retiree Health Benefits At the Crossroads

This issue brief reviews recent trends and developments in employer-sponsored retiree health coverage and examines the impact of recent legislation, such as the Medicare drug benefit and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on retiree health coverage. The report describes leading strategies employers have been pursuing or considering to limit costs for retiree health benefits. In addition, the report considers the potential implications of proposals aimed at reducing federal spending for retiree health coverage and costs.

Medicare
An Analysis of the Share of Medicare Beneficiaries Who Would Benefit from an Annual Out-of-Pocket Maximum under Traditional Medicare Over Multiple Years

This analysis examines the share of Medicare beneficiaries who would be helped over time if the program were to add a limit on out-of-pocket spending to traditional Medicare. This analysis was conducted jointly with the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) in response to a request made during a Feb. 26, 2013 hearing of the House Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Health.

Faces of Dually Eligible Beneficiaries: Profiles of People with Medicare and Medicaid Coverage

This brief examines the role of Medicare and Medicaid in the lives of dually eligible beneficiaries – low-income seniors and younger adults with disabilities who are eligible for both programs – through personal profiles. It includes a glossary of eligibility and service delivery system terms and state-level enrollment and expenditure data for dual eligibles.

To Switch or Not to Switch: Are Medicare Beneficiaries Switching Drug Plans To Save Money?

This analysis finds that relatively few Medicare beneficiaries have switched Part D prescription drug plans voluntarily during the annual open enrollment period — even though those who do switch often lower their out-of-pocket costs as a result of changing plans. The vast majority (87% on average between 2006 and 2010) stayed in the same Part D plan, even though the plans can change premiums, deductibles, cost-sharing amounts, and their list of covered drugs each year. Higher rates of plan switching were observed in PDPs that increased premiums, increased deductibles, or dropped coverage of brand-name drugs in the coverage gap.

Adding an Out-of-Pocket Spending Maximum to Medicare: Implementation Issues and Challenges

In an effort to simplify Medicare’s cost-sharing requirements, provide beneficiaries with catastrophic protection, and achieve program savings, some have proposed to restructure Medicare’s benefit design. Several recent proposals would create a unified deductible for Medicare Parts A and B, simplify cost-sharing requirements above the deductible, and add an annual limit on beneficiary out-of-pocket spending—a benefit feature typical of larger employer plans, but lacking in traditional Medicare. This issue brief describes the options for adding an out-of-pocket spending limit to Medicare and examines the operational issues that could arise in implementing both a uniform and an income-based out-of-pocket spending limit. Because the implementation of an income-related out-of-pocket maximum would pose somewhat greater complexity for Medicare, the operational issues associated with this approach are discussed in greater detail.