MCOs continue to abandon Medicare

Although fewer seniors will be forced to switch to new coverage optionsnext year than did last January, MCOs still are dropping out of the Medicare+Choiceprogram at a disturbing rate. Aggressive efforts by Tom Scully, administratorof the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), encouraged somehealth plans to stick with the program for now, but dozens of MCOs abandonedor curtailed service areas when they filed cost proposals for contract year2002 in September. Consequently, 536,000 seniors will have to find new coverageby January, much less than the 934,000 affected by MCO departures last year.But many of those plans that remain are reducing optional benefits or raisingpremiums in order to continue coverage.