The Medicare Advantage (MA) program insures a rapidly growing proportion of older adults, and may be more appealing due to lower cost sharing. However, the extent to which older adults are informed of their plan benefits and how plan knowledge has changed over time is unclear. We evaluated temporal trends and characteristics associated with not knowing MA coverage for dental, vision, and nursing home (NH) services.
Longitudinal cohort study.
Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), 2010 to 2016.
Adults aged 65 years or older enrolled in MA plans and not in Medicaid.
Insurance knowledge was determined from separate items asking if individuals had coverage through their MA plan for dental, vision, and NH care. Responses were dichotomized between responding yes/no and not knowing. Demographic, clinical, and functional characteristics were assessed from the MCBS.
The proportion of older adults in MA who did not know if their plan covered NH care increased from 38.0% in 2010 to 45.5% in 2016. However, proportions of not knowing dental benefits decreased from 6.4% in 2010 to 3.4% in 2016 and not knowing vision benefits decreased from 8.2% in 2010 to 5.9% in 2016. We found significant associations of race, education, income, region, and disability with knowledge of MA benefits.
As enrollment in MA plans has grown, older adults in MA plans increasingly report that they know their plan’s vision and dental benefits, although they decreasingly know about NH care. Older adults from racial and ethnic minority groups, with lower levels of education and income and who reside in certain regions or have functional disability, are less likely to know their plan benefits. This may imply decreasing preparedness for future long-term care needs.

© 2020 The American Geriatrics Society.