Press Releases
April 2, 2020

Better Medicare Alliance: Latest KFF Study Leaves Doubts

Washington, D.C. – Better Medicare Alliance (BMA), the leading research and advocacy organization supporting Medicare Advantage, responded today to an outlier study from Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) on Medicare beneficiaries’ experiences with medical bills, both in Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage.

The study, based on 2017 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) data, suggests that lower-income Medicare Advantage beneficiaries face similar and, in some cases, greater barriers to treatment due to cost than those in Traditional Medicare. Yet a data brief released weeks ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics found that Traditional Medicare beneficiaries “were more likely than those with Medicare Advantage or private coverage to have problems paying medical bills.” 

Just last month, an independent study conducted for Better Medicare Alliance by the respected research and advisory services firm ATI Advisory reported that Medicare Advantage serves a higher proportion of low- and modest-income enrollees and that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries report $1,598 less in total spending (out-of-pocket cost sharing plus premium costs) than those enrolled in Traditional Medicare.

The study additionally found that, among the lowest income, non-dually eligible Medicare population, a little over a quarter of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries experience cost burden, compared to almost half of Traditional Medicare beneficiaries.

“It’s disappointing enough that, amid a global pandemic in which public and private payers alike are working tirelessly to remove barriers to care, the authors of this study would scare seniors with such ill-timed reporting,” said Allyson Y. Schwartz, President and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance“In addition, the findings of this study are, at best, questionable given that they are contradicted by both the Centers for Disease Control and a separate, independent analysis of the exact same 2017 survey data.” 

Schwartz continued, “Most surprisingly, this study fails to acknowledge Medicare Advantage’s annual limit on medical expenses and the myriad ways that Medicare Advantage is stepping up in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, including many plans waiving all cost-sharing for COVID-19 screening and treatment. This is not the time to offer misleading information to policymakers or vulnerable seniors who deserve accurate facts on access to care.” 

Key Facts/Resources:

  • Read the CDC National Center for Health Statistics data brief, which reported that Traditional Medicare beneficiaries were more likely to have problems paying medical bills HERE.
  • Read the full data brief from ATI Advisory finding that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries report $1,598 less in annual total spending and lower rates of cost burden HERE. Find a two-page fact sheet HERE.
  • See the findings of a 2019 poll conducted by Morning Consult showing that Medicare Advantage has a 94% satisfaction rate among seniors – with 62% calling it a “better choice” than Traditional Medicare – HERE.


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