Jack Hoadley, Ellen O'Brien, Ellen O'Brien, Ph.D., and Jack Hoadley, Ph.D.
E. O'Brien and J. Hoadley, Medicare Advantage: Options for Standardizing Benefits and Information to Improve Consumer Choice, The Commonwealth Fund, April 2008.
The Medicare Advantage (MA) program offers beneficiaries a choice of private health plans as alternatives to the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program. MA plans potentially provide additional value, but as plan choices have proliferated, consumers contemplating their options have had difficulty understanding how they differ. Through "standardization"—more consistent types of information and a limited number of dimensions along which plans vary—MA plans could reduce complexity and improve beneficiaries' ability to make informed choices. Such standardization steps would offer more meaningful variation in the health coverage options available to beneficiaries, Medicare officials and their community partners would find it far easier to educate beneficiaries about their health plan choices, and beneficiaries would better understand what they were buying. Standardization might also strengthen the ability of the market-based Medicare Advantage program to incorporate beneficiary preferences.