Medicare Advantage is the best bet for seniors looking at their options as the open enrollment period begins, according to a new study published by the “Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Health Forum.”Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, gives seniors a choice about how to get their medical services delivered over the traditional fee-for-service Medicare plan. According to the JAMA study, that choice also gives seniors better value and better care.
Examining data from nearly two million Medicare beneficiaries, the JAMA-published study concluded that “those enrolled in MA had lower rates of hospital stays, emergency department visits, and 30-day readmissions.” Additionally, the study noted that “[a]mong Medicare beneficiaries with complex care needs, those enrolled in MA had lower rates of acute care utilization, suggesting that managed care activities in MA may influence the nature and quality of care provided to these beneficiaries.”
Medicare Advantage provides health care plans offered by approved private coverage providers. Unlike government-run fee-for-service Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans can cover additional services that seniors rely on and depend upon, such as prescription drugs and routine eye and dental care.
The option currently enjoys broad backing in the halls of Congress, with 63 members of the U.S. Senate signing a letter on the program’s behalf.
“We write to express bipartisan support for the Medicare Advantage program and the high-quality, affordable care it provides to over 27 million older adults and people with disabilities,” the letter read, signed by members as ideologically diverse as Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.)
In September, the House of Representatives passed a bill on a voice vote to make it easier for seniors using MA to get approval for treatment and prescriptions.
Traditional fee-for-service Medicare does not limit seniors’ out-of-pocket costs and copays. As a result, beneficiaries pay nearly $2,000 more per year in total healthcare-related costs than those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans.
Because Medicare Advantage relies on the private sector, some more progressive politicians oppose the option and have tried to limit its expansion or even kill it entirely. The progressive magazine “The American Prospect” wrote about Medicare advantage, and their opposition to it, in a piece headlined “The Dark History of Medicare Privatization.”
Some members of Congress have urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to protect eligible Medicare beneficiaries who might be subject to aggressive and potentially predatory marketing tactics related to the sale of Medicare Advantage plans or other insurance products.
However, based on the data, it appears seniors are satisfied with both the coverage and the quality of care received.
According to the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicare Advantage enrollment has doubled over the last 15 years. Currently, 32 percent of Medicare-eligible Granite State seniors choose Medicare Advantage over traditional fee-for-service Medicare.
Reports from the Better Medicare Alliance, a research and advocacy group, indicate 95 percent of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are satisfied with their network of care and a full 88 percent say Medicare Advantage gives them more flexibility and choice.
A separate study published by JAMA found Medicare Advantage beneficiaries received 9.2 percent fewer “costly, potentially harmful” low-value services than fee-for-service Medicare enrollees. In other words, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries received better-quality care.