A study by the Government Accountability Office finds differences in diagnostic coding between Medicare Advantage plans and traditional Medicare fee-for-service coverage.

These differences mean that Medicare Advantage beneficiary risk scores in 2010 were 4.8 percent to 7.1 percent higher than if those beneficiaries were continuously enrolled in fee-for-service, according to GAO, a congressional investigatory agency. And the higher scores translated in 2010 to $3.9 billion to $5.8 billion in higher payments to Medicare Advantage plans. Further, the coding differences increase over time, suggesting higher financial impacts in 2011 and 2012.

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