This commentary is by Jane Katz Field, M.D., a retired pediatrician who practiced in Brattleboro. She is vice president of the Vermont chapter Physicians for a National Health Program. She lives in Putney.

The Medicare annual enrollment period starts Oct. 15, which means people over 65 will be inundated with ads encouraging them to sign up for what’s called “Medicare Advantage.”

While Medicare Advantage (also called Medicare “Part C”) sounds like it’s part of traditional, nonprofit Medicare, it’s actually operated by commercial, for-profit insurance companies that, with the help of misleading marketing and celebrities like Joe Namath, have enrolled about 40% of American seniors.

Medicare Advantage is different from traditional Medicare in a few important ways. Traditional Medicare uses a transparent, straightforward “fee for service” system to pay clinicians and hospitals for patient care. However, under Medicare Advantage, the government pays commercial insurance companies a fixed monthly amount for each subscriber, allowing insurers to keep as profit what they don’t pay out for care.

Continue reading…..