A new study has revealed that immigrants are more likely than US-born residents to enroll in Medicare Advantage, particularly if they have limited English proficiency.1
The adjusted analysis found MA enrollment was:
- 45.5% for immigrants with limited English proficiency
- 42.1% for immigrants who do not have limited English proficiency
- 35.1% for US-born residents.
The researchers found no consistent differences in enrollment driven by race/ethnicity, education or income. They attributed the trend of higher MA enrollment among immigrants to benefit design, potential help from friends, family and navigators in choosing coverage, lower out-of-pocket costs, and greater comfort with MA plans that offer culturally and linguistically relevant care.
“Understanding the overall trends and patterns of MA enrollment among immigrants is of high policy relevance, as the immigrant population is aging faster than the US-born population,” the authors say. The number of older adult immigrants is expected to hit 22 million by 2060, and the share of new arrivals who are 65 and older was 6% in 2019 compared with 2% in 2000.1,2
Among the general US population, MA enrollment is already increasing rapidly, with a large share of the growth coming from disadvantaged populations.1 However, it was “unexpected that enrollment of [limited English proficiency] immigrants in MA plans would be substantially higher,” the authors say. They also note that choosing among different MA plans could be challenging for some beneficiaries, particularly those with “decision-making constraints.”
MA plans can help prospective members by equipping health care navigators and health insurance brokers with multilingual materials to support plan selection and enrollment. Once members are enrolled, plans can offer them customized benefits by tailoring them to their specific health and cultural needs and providing materials in their preferred language and channel.
Benefits that may be of particular use to immigrants include transportation benefits, telehealth in their native language as well as mental health services.
The authors call for further research into the care experience of MA members who are immigrants. Plans that aim to provide the best care and experience for immigrants will take steps now to provide inclusive enrollment materials, patient education materials and benefits that address the unique needs of this growing population.
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- Park, S., Meyers, D. Medicare Advantage enrollment by immigration and English proficiency status. The American Journal of Managed Care. Sept. 19, 2023. https://www.ajmc.com/view/medicare-advantage-enrollment-by-immigration-and-english-proficiency-status
- Camarota, S., Zeigler, K. Immigrants coming to America at older ages. Center for Immigration Studies. March 29, 2021. https://cis.org/Report/Immigrants-Coming-America-Older-Ages