Although it would seems like more choices are always better, that is definitely not the case when it comes to healthcare and medicare programs.
A recent study from the Harvard Medical School's Department of Health Care Policy shows that more options in terms of medicare and healthcare insurance policies for senior citizens is actually detrimental. Unfortunately, some, but not all elderly patients struggle with a number of cognitive issues such as dementia, senility, or Alzheimer's disease and that can often affect their decision making skills. Since they are already having difficulties with their cognitive functions, it exacerbates the situation when they are confronted with very complicated insurance and medicare options to pay for their healthcare expenses.
In the face of such complex healthcare insurance and medicare enrollment options, many of them will either make a poor decision by ignoring the Medicare Advantage Plans altogether or even make no decision at all regarding their healthcare. The most ironic aspect of this is that many of these people would most likely benefit from Medicare Advantage Plans or they should at least consider Medicare enrollment before considering more expensive private insurance plans. Most Americans already have difficulty selecting the right type of healthcare plan, but presenting dozens of these types of options to the elderly has not been in their best interests, especially when the best solution for many of them are the Medicare Advantage Plans. This study will be posted in the online edition of the Health Affairs journal and it will also be in the print edition the September issue.
The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 was initially designed to offer better options for people considering medicare enrollment, so it increased payments for the Medicare Advantage Plans. Consequently, this resulted in an increase in the number of private plans offered as they try to compete with better benefits and low premiums.
The study compared Medicare Advantage Plans with traditional medicare enrollment plans and analyzed the enrollment choices of 6,672 people between 2004 and 2007 with varying levels of cognitive abilities and plans available in their area. The study revealed that people would only select Medicare Advantage plans when there were less than 15 options available. However, if there were more than 30 different plans offered, people increasingly turned away from the Medicare Advantage programs and remained in the traditional Medicare enrollment programs because they did not understand the situation.
It seems that many people with cognitive issues were overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, so they chose traditional medicare enrollment by default. The biggest problem is that people suffering poor cognitive skills fail to understand all of the complex options being offered to them and this will be a growing problem due to the increase in dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
These findings will likely impact the recent healthcare legislation under consideration such as the Affordable Care Act. The researchers say that limiting enrollment choices may help more people select Medicare Advantage Plans and gain a better understanding of what features will benefit them the most.
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