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Medicare Advantage Outperforms Fee-for-Service Medicare on Cost Protections for Low-Income and Diverse Populations


Of the growing number of Medicare beneficiaries, 43 percent – 28.7 million – are served by Medicare Advantage plans. As this growth continues, it is important to understand the experiences of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program.


ATI Advisory partnered with Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) to evaluate the role that Medicare Advantage plays in providing cost protections to Medicare beneficiaries, including those who are financially vulnerable. Consistent with previous ATI and BMA research, we found that a greater proportion of low- and modest-income Medicare beneficiaries enroll in Medicare Advantage than Fee-for-Service (FFS) Medicare. Additionally, beneficiaries across the two programs have similarly complex care needs and levels of chronic illness.

Importantly, our findings show that Medicare Advantage enrollees spend $1,965 less on premiums and out-of-pocket spending than their FFS Medicare peers, and they are 35% less likely to experience cost burden. Notably, these differences in spending between Medicare Advantage and FFS Medicare beneficiaries do not appear to translate to differences in quality; beneficiaries in both programs report similar levels of satisfaction with health care quality, ease of getting to the doctor, having a usual source of care, and receiving the flu shot.


This research demonstrates that Medicare Advantage provides beneficiary-level cost savings while maintaining access and quality. Recent policy changes have allowed Medicare Advantage plans to provide more person-centered, quality-focused care (e.g., supplemental benefits and telehealth flexibilities). As the population of Medicare Advantage enrollees grows, the policy environment will need to continue supporting opportunities for innovation that allow Medicare Advantage to move upstream and provide whole-person care to Medicare beneficiaries.


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