Study: Medicare Advantage premiums higher in markets with less payer, hospital competition

stethoscope on money
If all Medicare Advantage beneficiaries were in markets at least as competitive as the average market today, they would pay nearly $200 million less in annual premiums. (Getty/Maudib)

When it comes to health insurance premiums in Medicare Advantage, competition among insurers matters a great deal.

That’s the conclusion of a new white paper from Leavitt Partners, which also examined the intersection of insurer and hospital market concentration. Perhaps most notably, it found that premiums were the highest in markets that lacked competition among both MA payers and hospitals.

Given these findings, researchers said policies that encourage competition, monitor current levels of competition and deter decreases in competition may help avoid future premium increases for MA beneficiaries.

In fact, if all Medicare Advantage beneficiaries were in markets at least as competitive as the average market today, the white paper noted, they would pay nearly $200 million less in annual premiums.

In other research-related news:

Uninsured rate holds steady at 9%

In the first half of 2017, there were 28.8 million uninsured individuals—making up about 9% of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest National Health Interview Survey.

That’s not a significant difference from the rate of uninsured in 2016, the report (PDF) noted. Still, that means the coverage gains the country experienced in the early years of the Affordable Care Act have stalled.

In another noteworthy data point, the survey found that the percentage of nonelderly adults with  private health insurance enrolled in a high-deductible health plan increased from 39.4% in 2016 to 42.9% in the first 6 months of 2017. 

Parents’ Medicaid coverage associated with more wellness checkups for children

When their parents are enrolled in Medicaid, children in low-income families are more likely to attend “well child” visits, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that as the Affordable Care Act expanded adult Medicaid eligibility, children participating in well-child visits increased from 32.7% in 2001 to 47.9% in 2013. That may be because Medicaid enrollment frees up more of parents’ funds, or because it helps them feel more comfortable with the healthcare system, researchers said.

“Our work highlights the potential for Medicaid expansions targeting low-income adults to mitigate disparities in the receipt of [well-child visits] between low- and high-income families,” the study authors wrote.