News & Commentary

Lower Earners Choose Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage seems to be the coverage of choice for low-income beneficiaries, according to a study by America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry lobbying group. AHIP crunched data collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey to find that “64 percent of all minority (nonwhite) beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage in 2010 had incomes of $20,000 or less; 64 percent of African-American and 82 percent of Hispanic Medicare Advantage beneficiaries had incomes of $20,000 or less.

In addition, 58 percent of Asian-American beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage had incomes of $20,000 or less; 29 percent had incomes between $10,001 and $20,000, and 30 percent had incomes of $10,000 or less, the study states.

Just 39 percent of European-American Medicare Advantage enrollees had incomes of $20,000 or less.

The findings are not all that surprising. “We have been doing this survey for years and the findings from this survey are consistent with what we have seen previously,” says AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach. The findings reinforce that insurers have wisely used resources in trying to be more attuned to cultural and ethnic barriers to getting care, says Zirkelbach. “Health plans are doing those things today — developing disease management and care coordination programs, providing decision support tools, addressing disparities in care, and much more.”

The study, “Low-Income & Minority Beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage Plans, 2010,” also looks at what it calls “active choosers” who, as the term implies, can choose between Medicare Advantage, Medigap, or fee-for-service Medicare. “Of low-income active choosers with incomes between $10,001 and $20,000 46 percent were enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans; 23 percent purchased Medigap policies; and 31 percent were covered by Medicare alone.”

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