Medicare Advantage doesn't hurt rural hospitals: Study

Increasing Medicare Advantage enrollment in rural areas did not increase rural hospitals' financial distress or risk of closing, a study published Nov. 3 in the American Journal of Managed Care found. 

Researchers studied rural hospitals in 14 states from 2008 to 2019. Medicare Advantage enrollment in rural hospital counties increased from 14.3% of Medicare beneficiaries in 2008 to 28.4% in 2019. The percentage of Medicare inpatient stays paid for by MA plans increased from 6.5% in 2008 to 20.6% in 2019. 

The researchers found that when Medicare Advantage penetration increased by 1% in a county, hospitals' financial stability increased slightly, and they experienced a 5% reduction in risk of closing. 

One in 5 of the hospitals studied treated no Medicare Advantage patients during the study period. 

The study "[counters] the notion that these plans hurt rural hospitals through less generous payments than traditional Medicare or additional administrative requirements," the researchers wrote. 

The study was authored by researchers at IBM Watson Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Read the full study here. 

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