Feature Archive

Making the Right Medicare Decision

Older Americans are facing a Medicare health care system featuring more options -- and more uncertainty....

By John Cutter
WebMD Feature Older Americans are facing a Medicare health care system featuring more options -- and more uncertainty -- than at any time since Congress enacted the program in 1965, say advocates for seniors.

Where there used to be only one choice in Medicare, seniors now face a myriad of alternatives, from the original fee-for-service plan to a variety of managed health care options. The U.S. Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) recently completed a mass mailing of "Medicare and You 2000," a handbook intended to outline the various choices.

Senior advocates say it is important that seniors select the right Medicare option -- especially older, more infirm seniors, who have the most health care needs. A wrong choice could mean higher out-of-pocket expenses and more difficulty gaining access to specialists within managed care plans.

A Reason to Be Cautious

Is the new "Medicare and You 2000" handbook enough to help seniors make the right choice?

No, says Diane Archer, president of the Medicare Rights Center in New York, an organization that provides free health care counseling to seniors. Although she praises many things about the handbook, she advises seniors to be cautious, because the Medicare landscape is shifting dramatically.