Mar 4, 2024 - Health

Medicare Advantage patients get less home health care: study

Illustration of a doormat with a red cross outside a front door.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Medicare Advantage patients were found to get skimpier home health care and worse outcomes than their counterparts in traditional Medicare in a study published in JAMA Health Forum.

Why it matters: With more than half of Medicare beneficiaries in MA plans, there's growing concern about how the plans are run, including whether their guardrails around coverage are reducing access to care.

  • Home health is a small but important focus because it can keep patients out of long-term care or nursing facilities.

What they found: MA patients got fewer home health visits from nurses, therapists and other classes of providers except social workers — and nearly two fewer days of service between admission and discharge — based on a review of about 285,000 patients who had care between 2019 and 2022.

  • Their odds of having improved mobility afterward were 3% lower than patients with similar needs in traditional Medicare, while the odds of improved self-care were 4% lower.
  • MA patients also had higher rates of being discharged to the community, which combined with lower functional improvement could limit their independence and increase the burden on caregivers.

The bottom line: Differences in home health services can weigh heavily on MA patients, who are likelier to live alone with less support and often don't need the care until they're in dire medical straits.

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