Medicare Advantage plans provide more benefits than Medicare

Almost all Medicare Advantage plans offer broader coverage than traditional Medicare, according to a new study from HealthPocket.

The study found 97 percent of 2014 private Medicare Advantage plans provided at least one additional benefit, whether vision, dental or hearing, that isn't provided in Medicare plans. And 42 percent of Medicare Advantage plans included extra coverage for vision, dental and hearing together.

"While most Medicare Advantage plans included extra insurance benefits not in original Medicare Parts A & B, there was considerable variation for cost-sharing among these benefits as well as the extent of coverage," Jesse Geneson, the study's lead author and data researcher at HealthPocket, said yesterday in a statement. "Consumers should review coverage details carefully before enrolling."

The analysis also found that although dental coverage was less common than vision, it was still available in more than 70 percent of Medicare Advantage plans. Of vision, hearing and dental benefits, hearing coverage was the least common, but was included in almost 60 percent of Medicare Advantage plans.

When HealthPocket analyzed Medicare Advantage coverage from last year to this year, it determined 47 percent of plans in 2013 included all three additional benefits, compared to 42 percent of Medicare Advantage plans this year. But the number of plans offering at least one vision, dental or hearing benefit beyond Medicare's coverage remained the same between 2013 and 2014.

The study results could add fuel to the fire of the ongoing debate over Medicare Advantage payment rates. Although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services increased the rate for 2015, some insurers, including Aetna and Humana, still expect to see their rates drop, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the HealthPocket statement and study

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