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Gym benefits help Medicare plans recruit healthy seniors
Date:1/11/2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] Because healthy enrollees cost them less, Medicare Advantage plans would profit from selecting seniors based on their health, but Medicare strictly forbids practices such as denying coverage based on existing conditions. Another way to build a more profitable membership is to design insurance benefits that attract the healthiest patients. In a study published in the Jan. 12, 2012, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, Brown University researchers report that plans have managed to do just that by offering fitness club memberships as a covered benefit.

"Offering a fitness membership does not mean that you are denying people coverage, but you are changing your benefits to appeal selectively to people who are healthy," said co-author Amal Trivedi, a Brown public health professor and a physician at the Providence VA Medical Center. "Policymakers intended for Medicare Advantage plans to compete on the basis of improving quality and reducing costs, rather than on their ability to attract healthier patients. What we found in the study is that offering coverage for fitness membership is a very effective strategy to attract a much healthier population."

That conclusion comes from Trivedi's and lead author Alicia Cooper's rigorous statistical comparisons among thousands of patients in 22 Medicare Advantage plans 11 "case" plans that added fitness club memberships in 2004 or 2005 and 11 similar "control" plans that didn't. They looked at when each plan member enrolled, when plans started offering the benefit, and what each plan member said about his or her health in the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey from 2006 to 2008.

One analysis compared the self-reported health of seniors who enrolled in case plans before the fitness club benefit was offered to the health of those who enrolled after the benefit was offered. While 29.1 percent of the seniors who enrolled before the benefit was available d
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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