Out-of-pocket health spending by poor and near-poor elderly Medicare beneficiaries. (1/24)

OBJECTIVE: To estimate out-of-pocket health care spending by lower-income Medicare beneficiaries, and to examine spending variations between those who receive Medicaid assistance and those who do not receive such aid. DATA SOURCES AND COLLECTION: 1993 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) Cost and Use files, supplemented with data from the Bureau of the Census (Current Population Survey); the Congressional Budget Office; the Health Care Financing Administration, Office of the Actuary (National Health Accounts); and the Social Security Administration. STUDY DESIGN: We analyzed out-of-pocket spending through a Medicare Benefits Simulation model, which projects out-of-pocket health care spending from the 1993 MCBS to 1997. Out-of-pocket health care spending is defined to include Medicare deductibles and coinsurance; premiums for private insurance, Medicare Part B, and Medicare HMOs; payments for non-covered goods and services; and balance billing by physicians. It excludes the costs of home care and nursing facility services, as well as indirect tax payments toward health care financing. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Almost 60 percent of beneficiaries with incomes below the poverty level did not receive Medicaid assistance in 1997. We estimate that these beneficiaries spent, on average, about half their income out-of-pocket for health care, whether they were enrolled in a Medicare HMO or in the traditional fee-for-service program. The 75 percent of beneficiaries with incomes between 100 and 125 percent of the poverty level who were not enrolled in Medicaid spent an estimated 30 percent of their income out-of-pocket on health care if they were in the traditional program and about 23 percent of their income if they were enrolled in a Medicare HMO. Average out-of-pocket spending among fee-for-service beneficiaries varied depending on whether beneficiaries had Medigap policies, employer-provided supplemental insurance, or no supplemental coverage. Those without supplemental coverage spent more on health care goods and services, but spent less than the other groups on prescription drugs and dental care-services not covered by Medicare. CONCLUSIONS: While Medicaid provides substantial protection for some lower-income Medicare beneficiaries, out-of-pocket health care spending continues to be a substantial burden for most of this population. Medicare reform discussions that focus on shifting more costs to beneficiaries should take into account the dramatic costs of health care already faced by this vulnerable population.  (+info)

Medicare HMO withdrawals: what happens to beneficiaries? (2/24)

More than 400,000 Medicare beneficiaries had to seek other insurance arrangements when their health maintenance organization (HMO) withdrew from Medicare at the end of 1998. According to a new survey of 1,830 involuntarily disenrolled Medicare beneficiaries, two-thirds subsequently enrolled in another Medicare HMO; one-third experienced a decline in benefits, and 39 percent reported higher monthly premiums. One in seven lost prescription drug coverage; about one in five had to switch to a new primary care doctor or specialist. Those with traditional Medicare by itself or with Medigap, the disabled under age sixty-five, the oldest old, and the near-poor experienced the greatest hardship after their HMO withdrew.  (+info)

Promises unfulfilled: implementation of expanded coverage for the elderly poor. (3/24)

OBJECTIVE: To examine implementation of the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) and Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) programs, enacted in 1988. The article summarizes the origin of the QMB and SLMB programs, describes what we have learned about QMB and SLMB enrollment in state Medicaid programs and, despite some encouraging news on the federal front, identifies policy issues that remain in assuring access to health care for the low-income elderly. SOURCE: Based in part on research that assessed state variations in Medicaid QMB and SLMB enrollment of low-income Medicare beneficiaries and identified best practices among states in administration of the QMB and SLMB programs. STUDY DESIGN: Telephone interviews were conducted with officials in ten states to elicit qualitative information about how state Medicaid programs have implemented federal protections for low-income Medicare beneficiaries. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The QMB and SLMB programs fail to reach a sizable proportion of potentially eligible individuals in most states. Fragmentation of Medicare and Medicaid benefits, complex Medicaid eligibility and income verification processes, and rigid federal and state administrative and data systems, impede efforts to achieve promised protection for low-income elderly persons. CONCLUSIONS: For low-income Medicare beneficiaries, obtaining financial protection against their high out-of-pocket health care costs remains an important issue. The complexities associated with aligning Medicare and Medicaid to deliver health benefits to low-income older persons makes improved coordination across federal and state agencies uncertain.  (+info)

Socioeconomic differences in Medicare supplemental coverage. (4/24)

In this study we compare the beneficiaries with various types of Medicare supplemental insurance coverage to examine the impact of socioeconomic characteristics on such coverage. We found that those who are more disadvantaged are less likely to have any coverage, and those who have it are less likely to have it subsidized by a former employer. These findings have direct implications for the fairness of proposed programs to provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare beneficiaries, and for the advisability of various proposals for reforming Medicare, including "premium-support" programs.  (+info)

The health plan choices of retirees under managed competition. (5/24)

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effect of price on the health insurance decisions of Medicare-eligible retirees in a managed competition setting. DATA SOURCE: The study is based on four years of administrative data from the University of California (UC) Retiree Health Benefits Program, which closely resembles the managed competition model upon which several leading Medicare reform proposals are based. STUDY DESIGN: A change in UC's premium contribution policy between 1993 and 1994 created a unique natural experiment for investigating the effect of price on retirees' health insurance decisions. This study consists of two related analyses. First, I estimate the effect of changes in out-of-pocket premiums between 1993 and 1994 on the decision to switch plans during open enrollment. Second, using data from 1993 to 1996, I examine the extent to which rising premiums for fee-for-service Medigap coverage increased HMO enrollment among Medicare-eligible UC retirees. PRINCIPLE FINDINGS: Price is a significant factor affecting the health plan decisions of Medicare-eligible UC retirees. However, these retirees are substantially less price sensitive than active UC employees and the non-elderly in other similar programs. This result is likely attributable to higher nonpecuniary switching costs facing older individuals. CONCLUSIONS: Although it is not clear exactly how price sensitive enrollees must be in order to generate price competition among health plans, the behavioral differences between retirees and active employees suggest that caution should be taken in extrapolating from research on the non-elderly to the Medicare program.  (+info)

Who switches from Medigap to Medicare HMOs? (6/24)

OBJECTIVE: To determine the factors affecting whether Medigap owners switch to Medicare managed care plans. DATA SOURCES: The primary data were the 1993-1996 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) Cost and Use Files. These were supplemented by data available from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website. STUDY DESIGN: Individuals on the MCBS files with Medigap coverage in the period 1993-1996 were included in the study. The person-year was the unit of analysis. We used multivariate logistic regression analysis to determine whether or not a Medigap owner switched to a Medicare-managed care plan during a particular year. Independent variables included measures of affordability, need for services, health insurance benefits, sociodemographics, and supply of managed care plans. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We did not detect strong evidence that beneficiaries in poorer health were more likely than others to switch from Medigap coverage to Medicare-managed care. In addition, higher Medigap premiums did not appear to induce beneficiaries to switch into managed care. CONCLUSIONS: We examined selection bias in joining managed care plans among the subset of Medicare beneficiaries who have Medigap policies. No strong evidence of selection bias was found in this population. We conclude that there was no evidence that the Medigap market is becoming prohibitively expensive as a result of unfavorable selection.  (+info)

Stability and change in health insurance among older Mexican Americans: longitudinal evidence from the Hispanic established populations for epidemiologic study of the elderly. (7/24)

OBJECTIVES: This study examined the association between health insurance coverage, medical care use, limitations in activities of daily living, and mortality among older Mexican-origin individuals. METHODS: We analyzed longitudinal data from the Hispanic Established Populations for Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly (H-EPESE). RESULTS: The uninsured tend to be younger, female, poor, and foreign born. They report fewer health care visits, are less likely to have a usual source of care, and more often receive care in Mexico. Conversely, those with private health insurance are economically better off and use more health care services. Over time, the data reveal substantial changes in type of insurance coverage. CONCLUSIONS: The data reveal serious vulnerabilities among older Mexican Americans that result from a lack of private Medigap supplemental coverage.  (+info)

Medigap premiums and Medicare HMO enrollment. (8/24)

OBJECTIVE: Markets for Medicare HMOs (health maintenance organizations) and supplemental Medicare coverage are often treated separately in existing literature. Yet because managed care plans and Medigap plans both cover services not covered by basic Medicare, these markets are clearly interrelated. We examine the extent to which Medigap premiums affect the likelihood of the elderly joining managed care plans. DATA SOURCES: The analysis is based on a sample of Medicare beneficiaries drawn from the 1996-1997 Community Tracking Study (CTS) Household Survey by the Center for Studying Health System Change. Respondents span 56 different CTS sites from 30 different states. Measures of premiums for privately-purchased Medigap policies were collected from a survey of large insurers serving this market. Data for individual, market, and HMO characteristics were collected from the CTS, InterStudy, and HCFA (Health Care Financing Administration). STUDY DESIGN: Our analysis uses a reduced-form logit model to estimate the probability of Medicare HMO participation as a function of Medigap premiums controlling for other market- and individual-level characteristics. The logit coefficients were then used to simulate changes in Medicare participation in response to changes in Medigap premiums. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We found that Medigap premiums vary considerably among the geographic markets included in our sample. Measures of premiums from different insurers and for different types of Medigap policies were generally highly correlated across markets. Our models consistently indicate a strong positive relationship between Medigap premiums and HMO participation. This result is robust across several specifications. Simulations suggest that a one standard deviation increase in Medigap premiums would increase HMO participation by more than 8 percentage points. CONCLUSIONS: This research provides strong evidence that Medigap premiums have a significant effect on seniors' participation in Medicare HMOs. Policy initiatives aimed at lowering Medigap premiums will likely discourage enrollment in Medicare HMOs, holding other factors constant. Although the Medigap premiums are just one factor affecting the future penetration rate of Medicare HMOs, they are an important driver of HMO enrollment and should be considered carefully when creating policy related to seniors' supplemental coverage. Similarly, our results imply that reforms to the Medicare HMO market would influence the demand for Medigap policies.  (+info)