Moeller: Is private-sector Medicare becoming a monopoly?

A monopoly board | Courtesy of William Warby/Flickr
A monopoly board | Courtesy of William Warby/Flickr

Good morning, class. Today, we are going to learn about something called the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, or HHI. Gesundheit, you say? Me, too. Anyway, put down your smartphones for a few minutes, and listen up. Of course, if you’re reading this on your smartphone, then keep at it with both thumbs blazing.

The HHI is a statistical method for evaluating whether a market for goods of services is highly concentrated, moderately concentrated or non-concentrated. A study released today by the non-profit Commonwealth Fund calculated the HHIs of Medicare Advantage (MA) health plans offered in more than 2,900 counties around the U.S. It finds that 97 percent of these counties had highly concentrated Medicare Advantage markets.

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Philip Moeller Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, is here to provide the Medicare answers you need in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil. Moeller is a research fellow at the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and co-author of “How to Live to 100.” He wrote his latest book, “How to Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” with Making Sen$e’s Paul Solman and Larry Kotlikoff. He is now working on a companion book about Medicare. Follow him on Twitter @PhilMoeller or e-mail him at

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