Study: Medicare HMOs Target Only Healthy
Medicare health maintenance organizations aggressively
sell themselves to only healthy, active senior citizens, but fail to try to
attract the full range of Medicare beneficiaries, including people under 65, those
in poor health and the disabled.
According to a study released earlier this week by the
Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, more than half of Medicare HMO ads featured the elderly
engaged in biking, snorkeling and riding amusement park rides. The report says the ads did
not feature any seniors in hospitals or using wheelchairs or walkers, and noted that
nearly one-third of the 21 HMO marketing seminars attended by researchers were not even
Medicare is the nation's biggest health insurance
program, covering about 37 million Americans. The program has 5 million beneficiaries
under age 65 and disabled, but neither print nor television ads ever featured them.
The report also says the Medicare HMOs published ads with important information, such as
benefit limitations and co-payment requirements, in very small print despite
recommendations from the Health Care Financing Administration to use large type.
The Kaiser Family Foundation is an independent health
care philanthropy based in Menlo Park, Calif., that focuses on various health issues,
including health policy.
The study appears in the July/August issue of Health Affairs.