Medicare Advantage Sees Fewer COVID-19 Hospitalizations in Beneficiaries and Offers Greater Access to In-person and Telehealth Non-COVID Care During Pandemic
As COVID-19 variants lead to new waves of infections, conversations about engaging in prevention behaviors, vaccine hesitancy, outcomes, and access to care have renewed importance, especially for vulnerable older adults.
This analysis is the third in a series of data briefs prepared by ATI Advisory for Better Medicare Alliance during 2021. Using the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) Fall 2020 Community Supplement Public Use Files and Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) Claims Data, ATI examines how Medicare coverage arrangements relate to COVID-19 outcomes, access to in-person and telehealth care, and prevention behaviors of Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic. The analysis found that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries were hospitalized less for COVID-19 and had lower mortality rates. While Medicare Advantage and FFS Medicare beneficiaries report the same likelihood of being able to access care during the pandemic, Medicare Advantage outperformed FFS Medicare on telehealth access and certain metrics in non-COVID-19 care, for example, greater access to treatment for ongoing conditions. Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, especially those in minority populations, engaged in a higher number of COVID-19 prevention behaviors relative to FFS Medicare beneficiaries.
These insights contribute to important discussions among policymakers as they seek to integrate lessons from the pandemic about how to understand the needs of and protect Medicare beneficiaries, especially during times of crisis. In particular, this research suggests that Medicare Advantage performed well in offering telehealth and non-COVID-19 care, experienced lower COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates, and encouraged COVID-19 prevention behaviors.