Here's where Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare differ the most on spending

Medicare Advantage plans generally spend less per enrollee than traditional Medicare plans, but these differences vary widely by condition, a study published in the September issue of Health Affairs found. 

The study's authors examined claims data for Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare beneficiaries from 2018 to 2019 across 33 chronic and serious conditions. 

Chronic kidney disease had the largest difference in spending between MA and traditional Medicare beneficiaries. MA paid an average of $2,682 per beneficiary with chronic kidney disease per month, and traditional Medicare paid $3,019 per beneficiary on average. 

Acute myocardial infarction had the highest monthly spending in MA and traditional Medicare of the 33 conditions studied, with little difference between the two programs. MA paid $7,848 and traditional Medicare Advantage paid $7,866 per beneficiary with the condition per month. 

In addition to chronic kidney disease, costs for beneficiaries with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were more than $200 lower on average in MA. 

Medicare Advantage paid slightly more per beneficiary per month than traditional Medicare for enrollees with lymphoma, pneumonia or stroke. 

For the conditions with the largest differences in payments between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage, the researchers broke down the cost of care for the conditions between inpatient hospital services, treatments, testing and imaging, Part D drugs and procedures. MA spent significantly lower amounts on treatments than traditional Medicare, the study found. MA tended to pay slightly more for testing and imaging than traditional Medicare. 

Further research is needed to uncover how the differences in spending between the two programs affect care outcomes, the study's authors wrote. 

The study was written by researchers at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. See the full study here. 

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