Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Medicare Advantage doesn't seem all that advantageous for rural areas

"Senators from Iowa and North Carolina say Medicare Advantage is vital for rural communities. But not many rural residents use these plans — and the plans they get are costly and unproven," the Daily Yonder reports after its demographic analysis of Medicare data.

"Medicare Advantage plans took off more quickly in cities than in rural communities," Tim Murphy and Bill Bishop write. "In rural counties, only 14.1 percent of those receiving Medicare belonged to a Medicare Advantage plan. ... Nationally, 23.7 percent of Medicare beneficiaries belong."

The Yonder notes that the Obama administration wants to stop "paying more for Medicaid Advantage plans than for regular Medicare. Currently, the government spends about $1.30 on Medicare Advantage for every dollar it spends on traditional Medicare. ... Republicans have resisted reduction in spending on Medicare Advantage, often arguing that the program provided choice to rural communities. ... But rural communities aren’t heavily invested in the Medicare Advantage plan — especially rural communities in North Carolina and Iowa," the respective states of Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Charles Grassley, who have voiced concern about the plan. Only 7.7 percent in Iowa are enrolled, and 12.8 percent in North Carolina.

For a state-by-state table and the full Yonder story, which explains the factors involved in creating differences in rural and urban particpation in the program, click here.

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