Health Care Spending, Use, and Financial Hardship Among Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage Enrollees With Mental Health Symptoms

Sungchul Park, David J. Meyers, Daniel Enrique Jimenez, Nattalie Gualdrón, Benjamin Le Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: We examined the differences in health care spending and utilization, and financial hardship between Traditional Medicare (TM) and Medicare Advantage (MA) enrollees with mental health symptoms. Design: Cross-sectional study. Participants: We identified Medicare beneficiaries with mental health symptoms using the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 and the Kessler-6 Psychological Distress Scale in the 2015–2021 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Measurements: Outcomes included health care spending and utilization (both general and mental health services), and financial hardship. The primary independent variable was MA enrollment. Results: MA enrollees with mental health symptoms were 2.3 percentage points (95% CI: -3.4, -1.2; relative difference: 16.1%) less likely to have specialty mental health visits than TM enrollees with mental health symptoms. There were no significant differences in total health care spending, but annual out-of-pocket spending was $292 (95% CI: 152–432; 18.2%) higher among MA enrollees with mental health symptoms than TM enrollees with mental health symptoms. Additionally, MA enrollees with mental health symptoms were 5.0 (95% CI: 2.9–7.2; 22.3%) and 2.5 percentage points (95% CI: 0.8–4.2; 20.9%) more likely to have difficulty paying medical bills over time and to experience high financial burden than TM enrollees with mental health symptoms. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that MA enrollees with mental health symptoms were more likely to experience limited access to mental health services and high financial hardship compared to TM enrollees with mental health symptoms. There is a need to develop policies aimed at improving access to mental health services while reducing financial burden for MA enrollees.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry

Keywords

  • Medicare Advantage
  • financial hardship
  • health care spending
  • mental health
  • mental health services utilization
  • traditional Medicare

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