MEDICARE ADVANTAGE

March 26, 2007

Competing Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are offering more choices, more generous benefits and lower cost-sharing to beneficiaries than Medicare fee-for-service. Seniors who especially value MA are those living in rural areas and those with modest incomes who can't afford supplementary coverage, says the Galen Institute.

Medicare beneficiaries have the option of receiving medical coverage either through the traditional fee-for-service program or by joining private Medicare Advantage plans, which generally offer better benefits and lower costs for enrollees:

  • All MA plans cover the standard benefits offered by traditional Medicare, including hospitalization, outpatient and physician care, diagnostic services, laboratory tests, and other services, often with lower cost-sharing than under traditional Medicare.
  • Many MA plans also provide coverage for services that traditional Medicare doesn't pay for, such as vision and dental care, added preventive services and protection against catastrophic medical costs.
  • Additionally, most beneficiaries in MA plans receive more comprehensive prescription drug coverage than under the standard Medicare Part D plan.

All beneficiaries, including those living in rural areas, have access to at least one MA plan:

  • So far in 2007, about 8.3 million beneficiaries -- 9 percent of people eligible for Medicare benefits -- are enrolled in private Medicare plans (which include Medicare Advantage and other private plans).
  • Enrollment is up from 12.1 percent in 2004.

We need more competition in Medicare, including private plans competing with traditional Medicare and we need it sooner, not later, says the Institute.  The vibrant private plan sector that Medicare Advantage has created is an essential step toward that goal and lays out an initial pathway to the future which should include premium support for Medicare beneficiaries.  Even more competition will promote greater efficiency, which over time can slow the growth of Medicare spending and improve the value that seniors and taxpayers receive from the program.

Source: "Medicare Advantage," Galen Institute, March 22, 2007.

 

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