Medicare Advantage Remains A Critical Lifeline For Low-Income, Minority Beneficiaries

posted by Clare Krusing

on February 11, 2015

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C. – Medicare Advantage remains a vital coverage option for low-income and minority Medicare beneficiaries, according to a new report released by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). The report comes as CMS prepares to announce preliminary 2016 Medicare Advantage payment policies that could further impact seniors’ coverage and benefits, particularly for the growing number of low-income beneficiaries who depend on these health care services.

Nationwide, nearly 16 million seniors – roughly 30 percent of all Medicare enrollees – have chosen Medicare Advantage for the higher quality care and additional benefits these plans provide. Medicare Advantage offers comprehensive disease management programs and care coordination services to help millions of seniors manage their health conditions. Moreover, Medicare Advantage plans continue to outperform traditional fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare at addressing crucial patient care issues and improving health outcomes.

“Medicare Advantage is a vital option for millions of low income and minority beneficiaries whose health needs are met through coverage that supports both quality of care and quality of life,” AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said.

The new analysis, based on data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), provides a demographic overview of beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program. Key findings include:

  • Medicare Advantage had higher enrollment among minority populations overall compared to traditional Medicare (30 percent versus 23 percent).
  • Of Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries, approximately 44 percent chose Medicare Advantage. Of African-American beneficiaries, 30 percent selected Medicare Advantage.
  • More than a third (37 percent) of seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage had incomes of less than $20,000. By comparison, 34 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries had incomes of $20,000 or less.
  • Over half (55 percent) of seniors with Medicare Advantage were women.

Medicare Advantage’s care coordination programs and services are particularly important for low-income beneficiaries as these individuals are more likely to have multiple chronic diseases, cognitive impairments, or need help with daily living activities. As more low-income individuals come to rely on Medicare Advantage for their coverage, policymakers should consider policies that better enable health plans to address enrollees’ complex health needs.

Notably, a recent AHIP analysis found that the government’s five-star quality rating system for Medicare Advantage threatens the long-term viability of health plans focusing on low-income vulnerable populations. Adjustments to the Medicare Advantage Star Ratings System are needed, so that it accurately reflects the challenges of serving these beneficiaries.

To view the full report, click here.


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