Study: Most Medicare Advantage members come from Medicare

Medicare Advantage is an increasingly popular choice among eligible consumers--including those who are already enrolled in traditional Medicare. In fact, at least half of new Medicare Advantage enrollees switched from Medicare each year, according to a new study published in the journal Health Affairs.

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans has continued to grow, with membership increasing by 4.6 million people (41 percent) during the past year, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

That growth has come despite reductions in payments called for by the Affordable Care Act, which insurers have consistently pushed back against. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that Medicare Advantage enrollment will continue to increase, and the study's findings support those projections.

Between 2006 and 2011, the majority of new Medicare Advantage members were individuals previously enrolled in the traditional Medicare program who decided to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan. Most of those former Medicare members were between 65 and 69 years old. In 2011, 52 percent of new Medicare Advantage members switched from traditional Medicare.

People who were newly eligible for Medicare comprised another growing share of Medicare Advantage members (almost 50 percent of all enrollees by 2011).

"If these trends continue, the percentage of beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans will continue to grow as baby boomers age into Medicare," Gretchen Jacobson, associate director of the program on Medicare policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, wrote in the study. "This is why, in the context of Medicare Advantage enrollment growth, all eyes are focused on new beneficiaries and the youngest cohort of seniors enrolled in Medicare."

To learn more:
- read the Health Affairs study (subscription required)