Medicare eligibility may reduce racial and ethnic disparities in insurance coverage, and MA plans may be able to do even more than traditional Medicare to close those gaps, two new reports show.1,2
One study, published in JAMA Network, compared seniors younger than 65 and found the coverage disparity between Black people and white people dropped by 53% after the age of Medicare eligibility. The coverage gap between white beneficiaries and Hispanic beneficiaries dropped by 51%.
Bigger shift seen with MA
Medicare Advantage may be even more effective at reducing racial disparities than traditional Medicare, separate data from the Better Medicare Alliance shows.”3 Latinx and Black MA beneficiaries spend less out of pocket, with average annual savings of $1,113 for Latinx beneficiaries and $1,270 for Black beneficiaries compared with traditional Medicare.4 Meanwhile, MA beneficiaries across all three groups have higher healthcare utilization and higher preventive service utilization compared with beneficiaries in traditional Medicare.1,2
The BMA notes 53% of Latinx and 49% of Black Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in a MA plan and are “a driving force” behind enrollment gains.2,4
However, more work is needed to overcome remaining health disparities for these members. For example, they are more likely to face social determinants of health challenges, including food insecurity, language barriers and lower internet use, compared with white beneficiaries.4
“This difference in comfort with English between Traditional FFS Medicare and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, combined with the greater likelihood of Latinx individuals to be enrolled in Medicare Advantage, reflects the importance of health literacy efforts and culturally sensitive healthcare,” the BMA report says.2 It will also be important to address differences in internet use as telehealth and remote monitoring become more commonplace post-pandemic.
While there is room for improvement, the findings underscore the importance of Medicare and MA in improving health equity in the US.3
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- Waddill, K. How Medicare eligibility impacts racial coverage gaps. HealthPayer Intelligence. July 27, 2021. https://healthpayerintelligence.com/news/how-medicare-eligibility-impacts-racial-coverage-disparities
- Waddill, K. Racial care disparities may be lower in Medicare advantage plans. HealthPayer Intelligence. June 17, 2021.https://healthpayerintelligence.com/news/racial-care-disparities-may-be-lower-in-medicare-advantage-plans
- Wallace, J., Jiang, K., Goldsmith-Pinkham, P., Song, Z. Changes in racial and ethnic disparities in access to care and health among US adults at age 65 years. JAMA Intern Med. July 26, 2021. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2782345
- Medicare Advantage offers high quality care and cost protections to racially and ethnically diverse beneficiaries. Better Medicare Alliance. June 2021. https://bettermedicarealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/BMA_2021-Q2-Data-Brief_6.15.21.pdf