For Medicare Advantage Plans, an Over-Abundance of Choices

Another clarion call to simplify a program so critical to the welfare of so many Americans was sounded earlier this month in a report published online by Health Affairs. It concluded that when faced with numerous Medicare Advantage plans, older Americans were less likely to enroll than if their choice of plans was more limited. It also found that seniors whose mental faculties were impaired were less likely to enroll than others when the Advantage plans offered more generous benefits.

Medicare Advantage plans, a form of supplemental insurance administered by private companies, pay providers more for treating Medicare beneficiaries. They frequently offer more generous drug benefits than those that are available in Medicare Part D plans.

The findings suggest that many Medicare beneficiaries are unable to access or process information, so if they’re faced with numerous, complicated insurance plans, they make enrollment decisions that aren’t in their best interests.

The three-year study looked at 21,815 enrollment decisions made by 6,672 participants. In comparing enrollment decisions among participants with different mental capabilities and plan offerings, if 15 or fewer plans were available, there was usually an increase in Medicare Advantage enrollment. When the number of options surpassed 30, as it did in one-quarter of U.S. counties, enrollment in the program decreased.

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