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Medicare Advantage Enrollment to Rise 11 Percent, U.S. Says

Enrollment in private Medicare plans offered by insurers led by UnitedHealth Group Inc. is expected to surge 11 percent in 2013, the U.S. government said, while premiums may increase an average of 4.7 percent.

About a quarter of Medicare’s 49 million elderly and disabled beneficiaries are enrolled in Advantage plans, in which insurers are paid a fixed monthly fee to provide services. Some of the plans offer benefits not available in the traditional Medicare program, such as discounts for gym memberships and eyeglasses.

Enrollment has increased 28 percent since passage of the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. health-care overhaul, said Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary. The law reduces payments to the plans, which cost more on average than traditional Medicare, while also giving bonus payments to providers the government considers high quality.

“Since the law was enacted in 2010, average premiums have gone down, enrollment has gone up, and new benefits and lower drug costs continue to help millions of seniors and people with disabilities,” Sebelius said in a statement.

The premium for an average Advantage plan is projected to be $32.59 next year, an increase of $1.47, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.

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