Medicare Advantage plans have added to the cost and complexity of the Medicare program without necessarily improving care, researchers concluded in several studies published on the Health Affairs Web site.
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans has doubled since 2003 to slightly more than 10 million Medicare beneficiaries, or 23% of the Medicare pool. This enrollment growth has provided more choices to beneficiaries, but at the same time has come at a cost because Medicare Advantage payments exceed those in traditional Medicare, said Marsha Gold, senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research and the author of one the studies, Medicares Private Plans: A Report Card on Medicare Advantage.
Gold, who presented the research findings at a briefing held at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, said theres little evidence these plans have had a positive effect on quality or lead to more coordinated care. Theres also a lack of stewardship in the program, she said. Right now we dont know what were buying and thats a problem, she said.
For this reason, Congress should take on more of an oversight role in managing Medicare Advantage, Gold said. In her paper, she said the program would benefit from increased transparency and accountability measures.
Simon Stevens, CEO of Ovations, UnitedHealth Groups health and well-being company for seniors, countered that Medicare Advantage plans have contained costs relative to Medicare fee-for-service, and have the potential to reduce health disparities. -- by Jennifer Lubell