Flawed Commonwealth Study

A study by the Commonwealth Fund concludes that seniors in Medicare are less likely than those with employer-provided coverage to encounter problems with medical bills or experience access problems due to cost. But how can that be?

As Chris Jacobs notes, a Congressional Research Service report found that traditional Medicare covers between 5 and 15 percent fewer expected health costs than the average employer-provided plan. And most health economists rate Medicare as poorly designed, since it covers many small medical bills which can easily be paid out-of-pocket, while leaving beneficiaries exposed for thousands of dollars of catastrophic costs.

The answer: 83% of the Medicare beneficiaries surveyed had supplemental coverage [which economists almost universally regard as socially wasteful] that fills the gaps in their basic plan.

Comments (6)

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  1. Kyle says:

    They aren’t even trying to conceal the liberal bias in the Commonwealth Fund study. It’s based on a survey that couldn’t report accurately on a full 25% of an already small sample of low-income households, and admits that these factors could allow for an “unknown bias.” Those surveyed also weren’t asked if they bought supplemental coverage. Amazing.

  2. dennis byron says:

    This study is even worse than you think from a research methodology point of view:

    1. The smiling and dialing was done over a three month period two years ago (beginning in the summer of 2010 but ending during Medicare open enrollment, just a crazy way to do data collection on the subject that CommonWealth Fund claims its research paper was about)
    2. The Commonwealth Fund oversampled for poverty but not for people over 65 (in fact, it appears that the data collection was not even done on the subject that the research paper claims to be analyzing
    3. As a result the Fund’s breathless claims are based on talking to only around 900 seniors
    4. In addition to comparing seniors on Medicare/supplements vs.non-seniors on ESI and individually purchased insurance, the research paper also includes some anti-Medicare-Part-C analysis based on an N of 188 (out of the 900 seniors Commonwealth talked to); the Fund also claims it found about 156 seniors who had no private supplemental insurance and depended only on Medicare (this is not respresentaive; in 900 seniors they should have only found 70 such seniors) but it did no analysis of that Medicare-only subset because it claimed the N was too small (yet they had basically the same N as related to Part C on which they did do analysis)

    Finally despite the methodology problems (in fact, probably because of the timing of the way they did the smiling and dialing), over 80% of the seniors volunteered (it wasn’t even a question) that they depended on private insurance instead of Medicare.

    You ask, “Who cares? It’s just the far left wing Commonwealth Fund.” The problem is that this gets repeated all over the mainstream press (which calls the CommonWealth Fund independent and non-partisan) and people turning 65 now think they can get by without supplemental insurance. This works against those of us trying to help seniors at senior centers (trained and certified by CMS in fact) trying to get seniors to sign up for supplemental insurance to protect themselves against the disaster that is plain Medicare Parts A and B.

  3. Alex says:

    Looks like the Commonwealth fund is being disingenious at best.

  4. Otis says:

    Dennis raises some good points, that study is really flawed.

  5. Alexis says:

    The real problem is not that the study is flawed (although it definitely is). The problem is that many people will take this study at face value and spout off “facts” from it without any regard to the validity.

  6. Ted says:

    Unfortunately, we know all too well that what Chris Jacobs is writing about is true. I know a couple of people who’s Medicare left them hanging with large catastrophic medical bills.