Medicare Advantage plans don't significantly improve care, experiences: study

A recent Commonwealth Fund study found that Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare enrollees have comparable healthcare experiences and concerns about costs.

The study found that enrollees on the two types of plans did not differ in terms of age, income, chronic conditions or Part D subsidy eligibility, according to the Oct. 14 study, which excluded special needs plan members from its findings to adjust for expected variance. 

The only demographic difference was the likelihood that traditional Medicare beneficiaries lived in metropolitan areas or in long-term care facilities. When including special needs plan members, Medicare Advantage plans included higher percentages of Black and Hispanic members compared to traditional Medicare plans.

Similarly, both Medicare Advantage (7 percent) and traditional Medicare beneficiaries (5 percent) reported difficulty getting healthcare. Wait times at hospitals and primary care facilities were similar between both camps. 

Reasons for both types of enrollees included high costs, a lack of coverage, physicians not treating or being too busy to treat an ailment, or specialist referral issues. The only hurdle that affected traditional Medicare patients more was access to transportation. 

Ultimately, satisfaction with both types of coverage was within one percentage point across five aspects of care.

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