For my entire career I’ve been baffled by Democrats’ resistance to the Medicare risk program (now called Medicare Advantage). I understand that most Dems hate big bad profiteering health insurance companies. What’s confounding is why they can’t see who the program truly serves: the heart of the party’s coalition.
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) released a report on Medicare Advantage (MA) this week based on 2010 CMS beneficiary survey data that shows the program is a “vital source” of coverage for low-income and minority Americans:
- While 26% of beneficiaries nationally are enrolled in MA plans, 29% of African-American beneficiaries and 36% of Hispanic beneficiaries enroll in the program.
- 43% of all beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage had annual incomes <$20,000; by comparison, 39% of all Medicare beneficiaries had incomes under $20,000.
- 64% of all minority beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage in 2010 had incomes below $20,000; 64% of African-American and 82% of Hispanic Medicare Advantage beneficiaries had incomes below $20,000. By comparison, 39% of White Medicare Advantage enrollees had incomes below $20,000.
For these reasons alone, Dems can’t continue to deny MA’s demographics, and ought to be lining up to support Medicare Advantage as the best hope for entitlement reform. But considering that health insurance companies generally stand one rung above used-car salesmen in the trust of left-leaning politicians, I don’t expect the party to come to its senses any time soon. It’s a tragic missed opportunity heading into this fall’s fractious elections.