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Daniel G. Aaron, I. Glenn Cohen & Eli Y. Adashi, Medicare Advantage Under Fire: Public Criticism and Implications, J. Gen. Internal Med. (2024).

Abstract: Congressional hearings and public reports have drawn attention to problems afflicting Medicare Advantage (MA), the privatized version of Medicare. Private plans became a staple of Medicare through the passage of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA). Congress passed this law during a furor of privatization, when think tanks and powerful financial interests emphasized the power of corporations’ profit incentive to improve the efficiency and quality of social enterprise. Yet the surging criticism of MA suggests a misalignment between the financial interest of some MA plans and the well-being of their patient populations. The criticisms range from deceptive marketing, ghost networks, and patient cherry-picking to unethical prior authorization denials and defrauding the government. In total, MA plans cost the federal government 22% more per patient than if these patients in question were enrolled in traditional Medicare. Moreover, it is not clear that this additional funding is producing proportional benefits. These developments raise questions about the presence of a profit incentive in Medicare, and perhaps health care more broadly.