Medicare Advantage
Policy Fact Sheet

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Competing Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are offering more choices, more generous benefits, and lower cost-sharing to beneficiaries than Medicare fee-for-service. Seniors who especially value MA are those living in rural areas and those with modest incomes who can’t afford supplementary coverage.

What is Medicare Advantage and how is it different from traditional Medicare?

Medicare beneficiaries have the option of receiving medical coverage either through the traditional fee-for-service program or by joining private Medicare Advantage plans, which generally offer better benefits and lower costs for enrollees.

All Medicare Advantage plans cover the standard benefits offered by traditional Medicare, including hospitalization, outpatient and physician care, diagnostic services, laboratory tests, and other services, often with lower cost-sharing than under traditional Medicare. Many MA plans also provide coverage for services that traditional Medicare doesn’t pay for, such as vision and dental care, added preventive services, and protection against catastrophic medical costs. In addition, most beneficiaries in MA plans receive more comprehensive prescription drug coverage than under the standard Medicare Part D plan.

All beneficiaries, including those living in rural areas, have access to at least one MA plan. So far in 2007, about 8.3 million beneficiaries--19 percent of people eligible for Medicare benefits--are enrolled in private Medicare plans (which include Medicare Advantage and other private plans). Enrollment is up from 12.1 percent in 2004. . . .

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Joseph R. Antos is the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at AEI. Thomas P. Miller is a resident fellow at AEI. Robert B. Helms is a resident scholar at AEI. Doug Badger is a senior fellow at the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. Robert Goldberg is the vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. Peter J. Pitts is the president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. Grace-Marie Turner is the president of the Galen Institute. Edmund F. Haislmaier is a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Robert E. Moffit is director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation. Nina Owcharenko is a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Tom Giovanetti is the president of the Institute for Policy Innovation. Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation. Stephen J. Entin is president of the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation. John C. Goodman is the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis. Sally Pipes is the president of the Pacific Research Institute. Gail Wilensky is a senior fellow at Project HOPE. The authors are members of the Health Policy Consensus Group.

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About the Author


  • Joseph Antos is the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where his research focuses on the economics of health policy — including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, the uninsured, and the overall reform of the health care system and its financing. He also studies the impact of health care expenditures on federal budget policy.

    Before joining AEI, Antos was assistant director for health and human resources at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). He has also held senior positions in the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Management and Budget, and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. He recently completed a seven-year term as health adviser to CBO, and two terms as a commissioner of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. In 2013, he was also named adjunct associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University.

    Antos has a Ph.D. and an M.A. in economics from the University of Rochester and a B.A. in mathematics from Cornell University.

    Follow Joseph Antos on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5938
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Thomas P.
  • Thomas Miller is a former senior health economist for the Joint Economic Committee (JEC). He studies health care policy and regulation. A former trial attorney, journalist, and sports broadcaster, Mr. Miller is the co-author of Why ObamaCare Is Wrong For America (HarperCollins 2011) and heads AEI's "Beyond Repeal & Replace" health reform project. He has testified before Congress on issues including the uninsured, health care costs, Medicare prescription drug benefits, health insurance tax credits, genetic information, Social Security, and federal reinsurance of catastrophic events. While at the JEC, he organized a number of hearings that focused on reforms in private health care markets, such as information transparency and consumer-driven health care.
  • Phone: 202-862-5886
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Neil McCray
    Phone: 202-862-5826


Robert B.
  • Robert B. Helms has served as a member of the Medicaid Commission as well as assistant secretary for planning and evaluation and deputy assistant secretary for health policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). An economist by training, he has written and lectured extensively on health policy and health economics, including the history of Medicare, the tax treatment of health insurance, and compared international health systems. He currently participates in the Health Policy Consensus Group, an informal task force that is developing consumer-driven health reforms. He is the author or editor of several AEI books on health policy, including Medicare in the Twenty-First Century: Seeking Fair and Efficient Reform and Competitive Strategies in the Pharmaceutical Industry.
  • Phone: 2028625877
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Kelly Funderburk
    Phone: 202.862.5855

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