Medicare part C insurance papers with clipboard and pen.

It appears those additional benefits Medicare Advantage plans offer have been paying off, according to a new study. A Commonwealth Fund survey of more than 1,600 adults over age 65 found nearly a quarter cited benefits, such as dental, vision and nonmedical benefits as the top reason for choosing an MA plan. Seniors who chose traditional Medicare plans cited greater provider choice as their top reason for choosing those plans. 

The survey also found roughly a third of Medicare enrollees used a broker to help them shop for an MA plan or traditional Medicare plan. Only a fraction of those surveyed used the federal government’s Medicare hotline or website or a state health insurance assistance program. Brokers are typically paid commissions by insurers for the help they provide, which can influence the advice brokers provide. Government-funded websites are designed to give unbiased assistance. 

The survey comes as Medicare’s open enrollment season is underway. Medicare beneficiaries have until Dec. 7 to choose a plan for 2023. MA plans have been growing in popularity with aging baby boomers because they tend to be less expensive than traditional plans and many offer a variety of nonmedical supplemental benefits, such as home care, transportation and meals. A recent study by Kaiser Family Foundation found 48% of Medicare beneficiaries are currently enrolled in MA plans. That number is expected to exceed 50% within a few years. 

However, MA plans have been coming under increased scrutiny. Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it would release 90,000 audits of MA plans that are expected to show hundreds of millions of overcharges to the government. The release of the information stemmed from a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by Kaiser News Network. Last spring, the Office of Inspector General accused MA plans of denying or delaying care to beneficiaries that is covered under Medicare.