Medicare Advantage premiums to fall in 2011

The average premiums paid by individuals for private Medicare Advantage plans, which insure about one-fourth of all beneficiaries, will decline slightly next year, even as insurers provide more benefits as required by the new health care law.

However, commercial insurance premiums for many people under 65 and many small businesses are increasing 10 percent to 25 percent or more.

Insurers can begin marketing to beneficiaries on Oct. 1 for Medicare coverage that starts Jan. 1. Medicare officials say they held down premiums and co-payments by negotiating with insurers, which sponsor the Medicare Advantage plans.

About 11.3 million of the 46 million Medicare beneficiaries are in private Medicare Advantage plans, which offer comprehensive care in return for monthly premiums. While premiums for some plans in a particular county may increase next year, beneficiaries may be able to find other plans offering a better deal.

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