Enrollment Patterns of Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries by Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefits

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Importance: Most Medicare beneficiaries now choose to enroll in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. Racial and ethnic minority group and low-income beneficiaries are increasingly enrolling in MA plans. Objective: To examine whether dental, vision, and hearing supplemental benefits offered in MA plans are associated with the plan choices of traditionally underserved Medicare beneficiaries. Design, Setting, and Participants: This exploratory observational cross-sectional study used data from the 2018 to 2020 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey linked to MA plan benefits. The nationally representative sample comprised primarily community-dwelling MA beneficiaries enrolled in general enrollment MA plans. Data analysis was performed between April and October 2023. Exposures: Beneficiary self-identified race and ethnicity and combined individual and spouse income and educational attainment. Main Outcomes and Measures: Binary indicators were developed to determine whether beneficiaries were enrolled in a plan offering any dental, comprehensive dental, any vision, eyewear, any hearing, or hearing aid benefit. Mixed-effects logistic regression models were estimated to report average marginal effects adjusted for beneficiary-level demographic and health characteristics, plan attributes, and plan availability. Results: This study included 8139 (weighted N = 31 million) eligible MA beneficiaries, with a mean (SD) age of 77.7 (7.5) years. More than half of beneficiaries (54.9%) were women; 9.8% self-identified as Black, 2.0% as Hispanic, 83.9% as White, and 4.2% as other or multiple races or ethnicities. Plan choices by dental benefits were examined among 7516 beneficiaries who were not enrolled in any dental standalone plan, by vision benefits for 8026 beneficiaries not enrolled in any vision standalone plan, and by hearing benefits for 8131 beneficiaries not enrolled in any hearing standalone plan. Black beneficiaries were more likely to enroll in plans with any dental benefit (9.0 percentage points [95% CI, 3.4-14.4]; P <.001), any comprehensive dental benefit (11.2 percentage points [95% CI, 5.7-16.7]; P <.001), any eye benefit (3.0 percentage points [95% CI, 1.0 to 5.0]; P =.004), or any eyewear benefit (6.0 percentage points [95% CI, 0.6-11.5]; P =.03) compared with White beneficiaries. Lower-income individuals (earning ≤200% of the federal poverty level) were more likely to enroll in a plan with a comprehensive dental benefit (4.4 percentage-point difference [95% CI, 0.1-7.9]; P =.01) compared with higher-income beneficiaries. Beneficiaries without a college degree were more likely to enroll in a plan with a comprehensive dental benefit (4.7 percentage-point difference [95% CI, 1.4-8.0]; P =.005) compared with those with higher educational attainment. Conclusions and Relevance: The results of this study suggest that racial and ethnic minority individuals and those with lower income or educational attainment are more likely to choose MA plans with dental or vision benefits. As the federal government prepares to adjust MA plan star ratings for health equity, implements MA payment cuts, and allows increasing flexibility in supplemental benefit offerings, these findings may inform benefit monitoring for MA..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E234936
JournalJAMA Health Forum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 12 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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