The federal government is preventing additional health insurance companies from automatically moving Medicare beneficiaries into Medicare Advantage plans while officials assess the practice.

Medicare Advantage is a voluntary program with about a third of the 55.5 million Medicare beneficiaries choosing it. It often includes extra services such as eye and dental care.

The government plans to issue rules for plans that already are allowed to make these switches known as “seamless conversion,” according to a memo from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as reported in Kaiser Health News.

Current rules allow an insurer to transfer customers who bought a policy through an Affordable Care Act insurance exchange or commercial plans when they become eligible for Medicare, around age 65. An insurer is required to alert the individual 60 days before the switch and if that individual doesn’t opt out of the change, the enrollment goes into effect automatically.

The practice is sometimes considered controversial because these mailed notices can be overlooked and many seniors who have been switched have been surprised to find out they had other coverage and received higher than expected, out-of-network providers’ bills.

In other Medicare news, a federal advisory panel said last week that the program may be shortchanging insurers, according to CQ Roll Call, because Medicare’s calculations don’t include the expanding number of wealthy and working senior citizens who have not elected to fully enroll in the health care program.

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