Medicare Fitness-Membership Benefits Attract Healthy People

Medicare Advantage plans with fitness benefits may attract, retain healthier Medicare population subgroup

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Medicare Advantage plans that offer fitness-membership benefits attract a healthier population than control plans that offer no such benefits, according to a study published in the Jan. 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Alicia L. Cooper, M.P.H., and Amal N. Trivedi, M.D., M.P.H., from the Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I., investigated whether Medicare Advantage plans design insurance benefits to appeal to healthier beneficiaries. Eleven Medicare Advantage plans that offered new fitness-membership benefits in 2004 or 2005 were compared with 11 control plans that did not offer fitness memberships. The self-reported health status of individuals enrolling before and after the fitness benefit was offered was compared.

The investigators found that, compared with the 4,097 earlier enrollees, among the 755 new enrollees in plans that added fitness benefits, the proportion reporting excellent or very good health was 6.1 percent higher. Furthermore, the proportion reporting activity limitation and difficulty walking was 10.4 and 8.1 percent lower, respectively. In the control plans, the differences between the 3,910 earlier and 1,154 newer enrollees were 1.5 percent or less for each measure. There were significant adjusted differences for the fitness-benefit plans versus control plans for self-rated general health (4.7 percent higher), activity limitation (9.2 percent lower), and difficulty walking (7.4 percent lower). For activity limitation and difficulty walking, these differences persisted at two years.

"Plans offering coverage for fitness memberships may attract and retain a healthier subset of the Medicare population," the authors write.

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