Medicare beneficiaries are considerably more satisfied with their coverage than privately insured and self-insured individuals, according to a study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund and published in the journal Health Affairs, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The study found that 8% of Medicare beneficiaries rated their coverage as "fair" or "poor," compared with 20% of individuals who have employer-based health insurance and 33% of those who purchase their own insurance coverage. Medicare beneficiaries felt that they have better access to medical care and were less likely to report problems paying their medical bills than privately insured individuals, according to the survey (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 7/18).
Traditional Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage
Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the traditional plan were more satisfied with their coverage than those in Medicare Advantage plans, with 6% of those using the traditional plan rating their insurance as "fair" or "poor," compared with 15% of beneficiaries in a MA plan.
The survey also found that beneficiaries enrolled in the traditional Medicare plan had lower out-of-pocket costs than those with MA plans. Thirty-six percent of beneficiaries who received coverage through Medicare Advantage spent more than 10% of their income on premiums and out-of-pocket costs, compared with 25% of those enrolled in the traditional plan, according to the survey (Sanger-Katz, National Journal, 7/18).
However, the survey also found that 32% of beneficiaries in the traditional Medicare plan reported having a negative insurance experience, compared with 27% of those in MA plans.
The researchers concluded that the survey suggests "that simply shifting more beneficiaries into private plans could leave them at increased risk for negative insurance experiences, problems obtaining needed care and difficulties with medical bills" (National Journal, 7/18).
Survey Comes as GOP Proposes Moving Toward 'Premium Support' Program
According to the Times, the findings were released as lawmakers prepare for another debate -- likely early in 2013 -- over Medicare's future. Many Republicans support a "premium support" program proposed by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would offer beneficiaries subsidies to purchase insurance from the private market, rather than traditional Medicare (Los Angeles Times, 7/18).