Nav: Home

BU finds Medicare Advantage networks are broad and getting broader

April 01, 2019

Share of Medicare Advantage plans with broad networks increased from 80.1 percent in 2011 to 82.5 percent in 2015, and enrollment in broad-network plans grew from 54.1 percent to 64.9 percent.

A new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers finds that networks in Medicare Advantage--a private plan alternative to traditional Medicare--are relatively broad and may be getting broader. The study, published in the April issue of Health Affairs, found that the share of Medicare Advantage plans with broad networks increased from 80.1 percent in 2011 to 82.5 percent in 2015, and enrollment in broad-network plans grew from 54.1 percent to 64.9 percent over the same period. Narrow networks were associated with urban areas, higher average income, and having more physicians nearby, as well as more competition between plans.

"This should be good news for folks concerned about insurers excessively restricting access to providers," says lead study author Yevgeniy Feyman, a doctoral student at BUSPH.

Previous studies have suggested that over a third of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries were in narrow networks, but these studies relied on physician directories, which are prone to error. For this study, supported by the Commonwealth Fund, the researchers instead used Medicare prescription claims data from 2011 through 2015 to infer networks of primary care physicians based on prescription patterns. Using this approach, they were able to look at about half of all Medicare Advantage local Coordinated Care Plan enrollment in the country.

The researchers found that narrow network plans dropped from 2.7 percent of all Medicare Advantage plans in 2011 to 1.8 percent in 2015. When the researchers controlled for demographic factors, they found that the proportion of broad-network plans in rural areas held at around 85 percent, and in urban areas grew from 76 percent to 79 percent. Among plans that were on the market for all five years of the analysis, the researchers found that 64 percent of the plans with narrow networks in 2011 were no longer narrow in 2015, while 99.5 percent of plans with medium or broad networks in 2011 still did in 2015. The researchers also found that health maintenance organizations (HMOs) had narrower networks than point-of-service (POS) plans and preferred provider organizations (PPOs).
-end-
About Boston University School of Public Health:

Founded in 1976, the school offers master's- and doctoral-level education in public health. The faculty in six departments conduct policy-changing public health research around the world, with the mission of improving the health of populations--especially the disadvantaged, underserved, and vulnerable--locally, nationally, and internationally.

Boston University School of Medicine

Related Public Health Articles:

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.
Bloomberg American Health Initiative releases special public health reports supplement
With US life expectancy now on the decline for two consecutive years, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative is releasing a supplement to Public Health Reports, the scholarly journal of the US Surgeon General.
Data does the heavy lifting: Encouraging new public health approaches to promote the health benefits of muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE)
According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, almost 75 percent of US adults do not comply with public health guidelines recommending two or more muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE) sessions a week, with nearly 60 percent of the population doing no MSE at all.
The Lancet Public Health: Moderate carbohydrate intake may be best for health
Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fats from plant sources associated with lower risk of mortality compared to those that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fat from animal sources.
Mass. public safety, public health agencies collaborate to address the opioid epidemic
A new study shows that public health and public safety agencies established local, collaborative programs in Massachusetts to connect overdose survivors and their personal networks with addiction treatment, harm reduction, and other community support services following a non-fatal overdose.
Cyber attacks can threaten public health
Gordon and Landman have authored a Perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine that addresses the growing threat of attacks on information systems and the potential implications on public health.
Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Public health experts celebrate 30 years of CDC's prevention research solutions for communities with health disparities
It has been 30 years since CDC created the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, currently a network of 26 academic institutions across the US dedicated to moving new discoveries into the communities that need them.
More Public Health News and Public Health Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab