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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Evercare Under Scrutiny For Wasting Tax Dollars on Medical Supplies

Insurer's 'wa$te' products
The New York Post

It's enough to make you sick.

A federally subsidized health insurer is wasting tax dollars, hawking overpriced medical supplies to its members that could be bought at a fraction of the cost online or in stores.

Private insurer Evercare doles out about $50 worth of "benefit credits" every three months to its plan members and sends them a catalog from which to pick the items. The items include everything from a first-aid kit to over-the-counter painkillers to exercise equipment.

One example of the unhealthy spending is a Nexcare Reusable ColdHot Pack. Evercare lists the price at $20 in its catalog, but the same item can be bought online from medical-supply distributor JRS Medical for $12.27.

"It's a rip-off," said a Murray Hill retiree and Evercare plan member. "I could walk into Jack's 99 Cent Store on 40th Street and get these things cheaper . . . It's the reason why the government is losing money."

Evercare is a Medicare Advantage plan, a privately run insurance fund that receives hefty subsidies from Medicare. About 11 million Medicare recipients are enrolled in MA plans, and the federal government spent $109.7 billion on those plans in 2009. MA plans took off in the 1990s, when private insurers convinced the feds that they could provide cheaper coverage than Medicare and offer more benefits and perks with minimum premiums or none at all.

The plans initially saved the government about 5 percent on the average cost of a regular Medicare recipient. But now, the federal government spends 14 percent more on MA plans than regular Medicare. That equals about $849.90 in monthly subsidies per MA plan member, according to the Kaiser foundation, which focuses on health-care issues.

The federal health-care overhaul signed in March aims to make the costs of MA plans even with regular Medicare.

Matthew Burns, a spokesman for Evercare, said, "Our catalog pricing is competitive with most retail pharmacies and, unlike most online outlets, our pricing includes shipping charges."

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