The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 gave birth to the Medicare Advantage program we know today. These sort of plans allow people and seniors to obtain Medicare for disability from health insurance firms that are privately owned. Insurance firms which offer Medicare Advantage plans must provide benefits which are the same as Medicare Part A and part B. Part A provides cover for the hospital insurance, while Part B covers the health insurance. Apart from covering inpatient and outpatient benefits, Medicare Advantage plans normally cover a few prescription drugs also. Because of this, the plans are sometimes called Medicare Part C. They combine Medicare Part A, B and often Part D coverage.
Ever since MA’s plans become available, they have become a popular alternative to Original Medicare, about 25 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries signed up for Medicare Advantage plans in 2010 alone. From an initial registration of 5.3 million persons the numbers have more than doubled and are still rising every year.
The way has been paved by Medicare Advantage plans for traditional Medicare benefits to be expanded by beneficiaries. Since the inception of the policy, the success of Medicare Advantage among seniors has remained a topic of debate. Of recent, data on the quality of care that MA-registered people received was published.
Medicare Advantage plans offer a higher quality of care
According to a study by the Acting Director of the Policy Department of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Niall Brennan and Doctoral Student in Economics at Harvard University, Mark Shepard, MA plans offer better quality care as compared to fee-for-service Medicare plan of Medicare for hospital use and provision of care with widely accepted quality measurements.
When the first data on Medicare Advantage plans became available in 2006, Shepard and Brennan used 11 measurements to investigate the underutilization of effective treatment. Of the 11 measurements, the MA plans in 9 charge activity plans have developed much better than tariff plans. Cost-benefit plans only exceeded Medicare Advantage on a series of measurements that are not as important to overall care.
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A similar study was conducted by the American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) using Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measurements. The study shows quality improvements in health care for MA policyholders with heart disease and diabetes. The results show that diabetic Medicare Advantage policyholders have lesser hospital admissions and fewer stays at hospitals compared to fee-for-service plans. In patients with heart disease, the trend was the same.
MA plans have taken better precautions to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions by using frequent doctor visits and outpatient health services. The feedback is also due to well-planned and better discharge coordination and procedures of medical care services.
According to Kathryn Nix, Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation, many comparative studies have shown that Medicare Advantage plans provide above-average medical benefits to their policyholders and better patient outcomes. The excellence of this program has contributed to the popularity of the Medicare Advantage plans.