Comparison of Ambulatory Care Access and Quality for Beneficiaries with Disabilities Covered by Medicare Advantage vs Traditional Medicare Insurance

Kenton J. Johnston, Hefei Wen, Harold A. Pollack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Importance: Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities aged 18 to 64 years face barriers accessing ambulatory care. Past studies comparing Medicare Advantage (MA) with traditional Medicare (TM) have not assessed how well these programs meet the needs of beneficiaries with disabilities. Objective: To compare differences in enrollment rates, ambulatory care access, and ambulatory care quality for beneficiaries with disabilities in MA vs TM. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study included a nationally representative, weighted sample of 7201 person-years for beneficiaries aged 18 to 64 years with disability entitlement in the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey from 2015 through 2018. Differences in program enrollment and in measures of access and quality by program enrollment were compared after adjusting for demographic, insurance, social, health, and area characteristics and after reweighting the sample by propensity to enroll in MA as estimated by observed confounders. Data analyses were conducted between November 1, 2020, and November 11, 2021. Exposures: Medicare Advantage vs TM program enrollment. Main Outcomes and Measures: Six patient-reported measures of ambulatory care access (usual source of care, primary care usual source of care, specialist visit) and quality (cholesterol screening, influenza vaccination, colon cancer screening). Results: The mean (SD) age of the overall study population was 52.1 (11.0) years; 49.5% were female and 50.5% were male; 1.6% were Asian/Pacific Islander; 17.4%, Black; 10.2% Hispanic; 1.4%, Native American; 65.1%, White, and 4.2%, multiracial. Among all beneficiaries living in the community, individuals with disability entitlement were less likely to enroll in MA than other beneficiaries (34.8% vs 41.2%). The final sample of beneficiaries with disabilities included 2444 person-years in MA and 4757 person-years in TM. Beneficiaries with disabilities in MA vs TM were more likely to be of a minority race or ethnicity (35.7% vs 27.6%) and less likely to be enrolled in private insurance (11.9% vs 25.0%). Comparing MA with TM among beneficiaries with disabilities, those in MA had significantly better rates of access to a usual source of care (90.2% vs 84.9%; adjusted propensity-weighted marginal difference [APWMD], 2.9%; 95% CI, 0.2%-5.7%), access to specialist visits (53.2% vs 44.8%; APWMD, 5.5%; 95% CI, 0.6%-10.5%), cholesterol screenings (91.1% vs 86.4%; APWMD, 3.8%; 95% CI, 0.9%-6.7%), influenza vaccinations (61.4% vs 51.5%; APWMD, 10.4%; 95% CI, 5.3%-15.5%), and colon cancer screenings (68.4% vs 54.6%; APWMD, 10.3%; 95% CI, 4.8%-15.8%). Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study, Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities were enrolled in MA at significantly lower rates than those without disabilities. However, MA was associated with significantly better ambulatory care access and quality for these beneficiaries on 5 of 6 measures compared with TM.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere214562
JournalJAMA Health Forum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 14 2022


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