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Democrats’ H.R. 3200 Disproportionately Harms Low-Income and Minority Seniors

Minority and Low-income Seniors are More Likely to Enroll in Medicare Advantage; Stand to Lose Added Benefits and Pay More for Health Care
September 17, 2009 — The Prescription Pad   

Democrats have repeatedly pledged H.R. 3200 will expand insurance options and preserve Americans’ ability to keep the insurance they have and like.  However, as previously detailed, a total of 6 million seniors will be denied access to an affordable Medicare Advantage (MA) plan because of H.R. 3200, including 3 million seniors who will lose the plan they currently have.  According to a new analysis those seniors will be disproportionately low-income and minority seniors.  Here are the facts:

  • Seniors enrolled in MA have lower incomes than the average senior in Medicare.  
    • 47% of MA enrollees have incomes below $20,000.
    • Only 6% of MA enrollees have incomes above $50,000. 
  • Hispanic and African-American seniors are most likely to choose MA over the traditional Medicare program.  
    • 1 in 3 Hispanic seniors are enrolled in MA.
    • 1 in 4 African-Americans seniors are enrolled in MA.
    • 1 in 5 White seniors are enrolled in MA.
    • 1 in 6 Asian-Americans are enrolled in MA.

Higher enrollment in MA by low-income and minority seniors is due in part to the fact these seniors are less likely to have employer-based coverage to supplement to traditional Medicare.  Low-income seniors are also less likely to be able to afford Medicare supplemental policies (Medigap) to help reduce their Medicare out-of-pocket costs and provide them with extra benefits.

The additional benefits these seniors currently receive in MA plans include protections against high out-of-pocket costs, vision and dental coverage, and free preventive care and cancer screenings.  For example, in 2007, 100% of seniors in an MA plan had coverage for physical examinations, 88% had vision benefits, and 57% had hearing benefits – all of which were not covered by traditional Medicare.  Additionally, in 2007, 93% of seniors had the option of choosing an MA plan that capped out-of-pocket costs at $2,500, a financial security protection traditional Medicare doesn’t afford.  MedPAC predicts that the value of additional benefits will be slashed by $252 per year.  If H.R. 3200 is enacted, it will be especially burdensome for low-income seniors who are enrolled in MA plans.

So much for being able to keep what you like.