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Study Finds Medicare Advantage and Traditional Medicare Beneficiaries Have Comparable Health Care Experiences

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Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans continues to increase rapidly. This has led to questions about which beneficiaries are enrolling in Medicare Advantage or in traditional Medicare and how their health care experiences compare. A new study from The Commonwealth Fund sought to assess the characteristics and experiences of beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2018 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey and the Commonwealth Fund 2021 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults. They found Medicare Advantage enrollees do not differ significantly from beneficiaries in traditional Medicare in terms of their age, race, income, chronic conditions, satisfaction with care, or access to care, after excluding SNP enrollees. Both groups reported waiting more than a month for physician office visits. Similar shares of Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare enrollees report that their out-of-pocket costs make it difficult to obtain care.

The study concludes Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare are serving similar populations, with beneficiaries having comparable health care experiences. The care management services provided by Medicare Advantage plans appear to neither impede access to care nor reduce concerns about costs. Overall, the analysis highlights substantial barriers to care that all beneficiaries seem to be experiencing.

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