Medicare better than private insurance
Posted by medconsumers on July 23, 2012
Count me in with the people who think expanding Medicare access to include younger Americans is the most logical way to improve access to medical care. Now there is some ammunition for this rational, but still politically untenable, way to go. A new survey shows that people on Medicare are more satisfied with their care than people with private, employer-sponsored insurance. What’s more, Medicare enrollees are more satisfied than their counterparts enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plan, a heavily subsidized, Bush-era giant step toward privatizing traditional Medicare.
Earlier studies found traditional Medicare delivers with lower administration costs than private health plans and Medicare Advantage. Now we have a new survey, the first to look solely at consumer satisfaction: Traditional Medicare comes out on top by all measures. It was published in the current issue of the journal Health Affairs.
Here are the results of the Commonwealth Fund 2010 nationwide telephone survey that included 3,033 adults under the age of 65 and 940 adults age 65 and older:
“Eight percent of Medicare beneficiaries rated their insurance as fair or poor compared to 20 percent of nonelderly adults with employer insurance and 33 percent purchasing insurance on the individual market. Among Medicare beneficiaries, only 6 percent of those with traditional Medicare gave a fair or poor rating, compared to 15 percent of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.
Thirty-seven percent of working adults with employer-sponsored coverage reported at least one access problem due to cost, compared to 23 percent of elderly adults with Medicare. Among Medicare beneficiaries, those with traditional plans were significantly less likely to report problems accessing care than those opting for Medicare Advantage (23 percent versus 32 percent).
Within the subset of beneficiaries who are age sixty-five or older, those enrolled in the private Medicare Advantage program were less likely than those in traditional Medicare to have premiums and out-of-pocket costs exceed 10 percent of their income. But they were also more likely than those in traditional Medicare to rate their insurance poorly and to report cost-related access problems.”
These findings are reported by a team of Commonwealth Fund researchers led by Karen Davis, PhD, President of this foundation that describes itself as “A private foundation working towards high performance health system.” The Fund has long ago taken a position of favor of the Affordable Care Act.
In a telephone interview, Dr. Davis was asked for the implications of her survey should the Republicans take over the government next year and put into effect Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R, Wis) health plan that relies largely on vouchers. “The voucher plan would eliminate traditional Medicare for the people who are [now] under age 55,” she answered. “They will have to buy private insurance and our study shows that they will get care that is less desirable, less affordable care, and they will experience more access problems due to cost than today’s Medicare beneficiaries.”
President Obama, on the other hand, plans to keep Medicare intact and has said repeatedly, “If you are happy with your insurance plan, you can keep it.” When Dr. Davis was asked for the implications of her survey should the Affordable Care Act be allowed to continue full steam ahead. “Many more people will have access to affordable, private insurance that will be set up by the states as health insurance exchanges,” she explained, “and there will be fewer hassles with insurance companies. President Obama’s plan has the advantage of allowing people to keep their insurance to old age without worry about losing their jobs and their insurance along with it.”
-For more about the Affordable Care Act and state-run insurance exchanges, click here
-The Commonwealth Fund maintains a state-by-state chart showing the status of health insurance exchanges, where low- and middle-income people and small business can buy subsidized private insure from competing carriers. They are expected to become fully operational by 2014.Two states have already established health insurance exchanges prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Several Republican governors have announced they will not set up an exchange, thus leaving it to the federal government. To see what’s happening (or not happening) in your state, click here.
Maryann Napoli, Center for Medical Consumers©