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Report: Medicare Advantages remains popular among seniors

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Medicare Advantage continues to surge in popularity among seniors and its premiums continue to fall, contradicting Republican predictions that President Obama’s health care law would halt the program’s recent and rapid expansion.

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans grew by six percent from April 2010 to April 2011 and the average monthly premium fell from $28 last year to $24 this year, according to a new Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, requested by Sens. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, and Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat.

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in March 2010, Republicans complained that it would reduce coverage options for seniors by forcing them out of the program. The law cuts $541 billion from Medicare over the next 10 years, taking about one-fourth of that total from Medicare Advantage and reducing payments over time.

While the GAO report doesn’t allay their long-term fears, it does offer evidence that the health care law won’t hurt Medicare Advantage in the short term. Enrollment in the program has doubled since 2005.

The Obama administration seized upon the news as evidence that the health care overhaul is expanding access to coverage and lowering the cost of health care.

“President Obama is committed to making Medicare stronger and today’s report is another sign that the Affordable Care Act is working for America’s seniors,” wrote spokeswoman Nancy-Ann DeParle, on the White House blog.

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