41% of Medicare beneficiaries below the poverty level went without a flu vaccine in 2018; Medicare Advantage outperformed Traditional Medicare on vaccination rates
Washington, D.C. – As public health officials urge flu vaccinations to prevent added stress on the health care system amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new data brief commissioned by Better Medicare Alliance finds that racial minorities and lower-income beneficiaries are among those most likely to forego this preventive care.
The research, prepared by ATI Advisory and released on the heels of National Influenza Vaccination Week, also found that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries were more likely to receive a flu vaccination than those in Traditional Medicare.
In 2018, 29% of Medicare beneficiaries who resided in the community and 13% of Medicare beneficiaries in assisted living and nursing facilities did not get a flu shot.
40% of African American beneficiaries in Traditional Medicare went without a flu shot in 2018, as compared to 34% in Medicare Advantage. Similarly, 46% of Traditional Medicare beneficiaries living below the Federal Poverty Level skipped the flu vaccine in 2018, as did 35% of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.
Concerns about possible side effects topped Medicare beneficiaries’ list of reasons for not getting a flu vaccine, yet the flu vaccine has a decades-long track record of safety, preventing illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths each year.
Medicare beneficiaries with lower levels of education, beneficiaries with fewer chronic conditions, and beneficiaries under the age of 65 were all also less likely to receive a flu vaccine.
“As a community of nearly 500,000 grassroots seniors and more than 150 Ally organizations, Better Medicare Alliance is committed to raising awareness of the importance of vaccines and building up trust in communities that are less likely to receive them,” said Allyson Y. Schwartz, President and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance. “With a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine now approved, we should be looking closely at flu vaccination patterns for lessons learned. Our research showed that, while Medicare Advantage performed better than Traditional Medicare, there is work to be done across the board. This is especially true in minority, lower-income, and rural communities. If we are to achieve higher rates of vaccination, it is extremely important that all efforts are made to engage these beneficiary populations with appropriate and impactful information that will build confidence in the safety and need for the vaccine, as well as to ensure access in these underserved communities. ”
The data brief is based on 2018 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) data, the most recent year available.
Read the full data brief HERE.