Study: Medicare HMOs Target Only Healthy Seniors


      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 wheelchair accessible.
      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.

HMOs Return
HMOs Return