As Diabetes Month Draws to a Close, Medicare Advantage Continues Innovating to Meet Seniors’ Diabetic Needs
By Mary Beth Donahue
Each year, November is recognized as National Diabetes Month. As the month draws to a close, and as Medicare beneficiaries weigh their health coverage options during this open enrollment period, seniors should know that Medicare Advantage plans have a strong track record of delivering for patients with diabetes.
Diabetes affects nearly one in three adults over the age of 65, and Medicare Advantage’s affordable, high-quality care is helping a growing number of diabetes patients meet their needs. In fact, Medicare Advantage plans serve a higher proportion of diabetic patients compared to traditional fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare.
Not only is Medicare Advantage serving a higher proportion of diabetic beneficiaries, it is also improving health outcomes by increasing access to high-quality, comprehensive, and affordable health care. Research shows that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries had a higher rate of HbA1C testing and diabetic eye exams than those enrolled in fee-for-service Medicare. Additionally, 99.9% of Medicare Advantage plans provide seniors with access to important supplemental services that are uniquely beneficial for diabetes patients like diet, nutrition, and wellness programs. Some beneficiaries can also enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan specifically tailored to treat beneficiaries with diabetes.
Additionally, Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill (SSBCI) allow Medicare Advantage plans to tailor benefits to meet seniors’ unique needs and improve health outcomes, which is why the number of overall Medicare Advantage plans to offer SSBCI benefits jumped 38% from 2021-2022. According to research from Milliman, diabetes is the disease most targeted for additional benefits under Medicare Advantage – showing how the program is innovating to serve this patient community.
Medicare Advantage also uses innovative approaches to preventative care through the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), which combines exercise, nutrition assistance, and individual counseling to reduce risk of the disease. Established in 2018, the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP) is an evidence-based chronic disease management program available to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries aimed at slowing the progression of pre-diabetes and preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes. This concentrated effort is a prime example of the results-oriented, effective partnerships spearheaded by Medicare Advantage and like-minded groups.
Meanwhile, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries save nearly $2,000 on total healthcare-related costs each year compared with those enrolled in fee-for-service Medicare which, in contrast to Medicare Advantage, does not limit seniors’ out-of-pocket costs and copays
This all helps to explain why a recent study shows that Medicare Advantage remains popular among beneficiaries, with 94% satisfied with their health coverage and 95% with their network of doctors, hospitals, and specialists. With quality diabetic care and increased coverage for health care needs including prescription drugs and routine dental and eye care, it’s no wonder that Medicare Advantage enrollment has doubled over the last 15 years and seniors are increasingly finding value in this vital part of the Medicare program.
Mary Beth Donahue is the President and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance.