The Fund supports networks of state health policy decision makers to help identify, inspire, and inform policy leaders.
The Milbank Memorial Fund supports two state leadership programs for legislative and executive branch state government officials committed to improving population health.
The Fund identifies and shares policy ideas and analysis to advance state health leadership, strong primary care, and sustainable health care costs.
Keep up with news and updates from the Milbank Memorial Fund. And read the latest blogs from our thought leaders, including Fund President Christopher F. Koller.
The Fund publishes The Milbank Quarterly, as well as reports, issues briefs, and case studies on topics important to health policy leaders.
The Milbank Memorial Fund is is a foundation that works to improve population health and health equity.
Joseph P. Newhouse
Thomas G. McGuire
Feb 27, 2024
Feb 26, 2024
Back to The Milbank Quarterly
Context: Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage (MA), now almost 30 years old, has generally been viewed as a policy disappointment. Enrollment has vacillated but has never come close to the penetration of managed care plans in the commercial insurance market or in Medicaid, and because of payment policy decisions and selection, the MA program is viewed as having added to cost rather than saving funds for the Medicare program. Recent changes in Medicare policy, including improved risk adjustment, however, may have changed this picture.
Methods: This article summarizes findings from our group’s work evaluating MA’s recent performance and investigating payment options for improving its performance even more. We studied the behavior of both beneficiaries and plans, as well as the effects of Medicare policy.
Findings: Beneficiaries make “mistakes” in their choice of MA plan options that can be explained by behavioral economics. Few beneficiaries make an active choice after they enroll in Medicare. The high prevalence of “zero-premium” plans signals inefficiency in plan design and in the market’s functioning. That is, Medicare premium policies interfere with economically efficient choices. The adverse selection problem, in which healthier, lower-cost beneficiaries tend to join MA, appears much diminished. The available measures, while limited, suggest that, on average, MA plans offer care of equal or higher quality and for less cost than traditional Medicare (TM). In counties, greater MA penetration appears to improve TM’s performance.
Conclusions: Medicare policies regarding lock-in provisions and risk adjustment that were adopted in the mid-2000s have mitigated the adverse selection problem previously plaguing MA. On average, MA plans appear to offer higher value than TM, and positive spillovers from MA into TM imply that reimbursement should not necessarily be neutral. Policy changes in Medicare that reform the way that beneficiaries are charged for MA plan membership are warranted to move more beneficiaries into MA.
Author(s): Joseph P. Newhouse, Thomas G. McGuire
Read on Wiley Online Library
Volume 92, Issue 2 (pages 351–394) DOI: 10.1111/1468-0009.12061 Published in 2014
Get the Latest from the Milbank Memorial Fund
The Milbank Quarterly is an editorially independent multidisciplinary journal that offers in-depth assessments of the social, economic, political, historical, legal, and ethical dimensions of health and health care policy.