Comparing Rural and Urban Medicare Advantage Beneficiary Characteristics

Abigail Barker, PhD; Lindsey Nienstedt, BA; Leah Kemper, MPH; Timothy McBride, PhD; and Keith Mueller, PhD

This brief uses data from the 2012–13 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) to describe rural and urban differences in the populations that enroll in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. Combined with county-level data on MA issuer participation, this dataset also allows us to assess the degree to which issuers may engage in selective MA market entry on the basis of observed demographic characteristics. Rural and urban MA and fee-for-service populations did not differ much by any characteristics reported in the data, including age, self-reported health status, cancer diagnosis, smoking status, Medicaid status, or by other variables assessing frailty and presence of chronic conditions. Most measures of access were similar across rural and urban respondents. While rurality on its own was often a significant predictor of lower issuer participation in a county’s MA market, the addition of other demographic characteristics did not influence the prediction. In other words, we found no evidence, based upon MCBS data, that issuers exclude rural counties due to other demographics. These findings suggest that poor health – as approximated by the demographic characteristics captured in MCBS data – is also captured similarly in risk adjustment formulas, meaning that MA issuers are compensated for this observed risk.

Click to download a copy: Comparing Rural and Urban Medicare Advantage Beneficiary Characteristics

Implementation of the Flex Program’s Innovative Models Program Area: Final Evaluation Report

The Flex Monitoring Team’s latest briefing paper is a report on our evaluation of projects implemented under Flex Program Area 5: Integration of Innovative Health Care, which is a new program area in the current funding cycle.

We describe the initiatives of seven states in the areas of telehealth, care coordination, and quality improvement, and discuss their implementation and their early results. We also examine the role and impact of Program Area 5 in the Flex Program, and highlight key lessons learned from this first round of implementation.

Click through to access the paper.

Tackling HPV Cancers

Tackling HPV Cancers.  The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can prevent 30,000 Americans from getting cancer each year, but data from 2017 show that fewer than half of adolescents completed the HPV vaccination series.  In rural communities, adolescents are less likely than their urban peers to be aware of the HPV vaccine and its importance in cancer prevention.  Monday, March 4th is International HPV Awareness Day and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) asks you to join the #EndHPVCancers Twitter Chat on that day at 3:00 pm ET.  And to help others understand the risks and ways to prevent HPV, share resources from the HHS HPV Promotional Toolkit, the National HPV Roundtable, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Brief: Disability in PA, 2013-2017

Approximately 1.73 million Pennsylvanians (13.7%) have at least one disability. This month we highlight trends in the population with disabilities in PA according to the 2013-2017 American Community Estimates. Key trends include:

  • A higher percentage of females and older persons had disabilities
  • Ambulatory, or movement-based, disabilities were the most common type
  • Those with disabilities had lower educational attainment and earnings

Read more:

AHA Report on Challenges to Rural Access to Care

AHA Report on Challenges to Rural Access to Care.  The American Hospital Association (AHA) report takes a comprehensive look at persistent challenges to health care in rural communities, an examination that includes hospital closures, the opioid crisis, social determinants of health, lack of behavioral health and workforce shortages.  While it acknowledges a role and responsibility for better policy at every level, the report focuses on federal policies and investments in light of their nationwide impact and reach.

Advancing Tobacco Prevention and Control in Rural America

Advancing Tobacco Prevention and Control in Rural America. The National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI), in conjunction with the Maine Public Health Institute and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD), announced the release of a new report highlighting the significant toll tobacco has on rural communities.  The report – which includes 15 recommendations for advancing rural tobacco control initiatives and suggestions for future research – explores rates and patterns of commercial tobacco use across rural, aspects of the rural context that may affect tobacco control efforts, and current rural tobacco control activities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking disproportionately affects the health of people with lower socioeconomic status, withpeople living in deprived, rural areas experiencing rates of lung cancer that are 18-20 percent higher than people living in urban areas.

White House Launches High Speed Broadband Initiative

White House Launches High Speed Broadband Initiative.  On Wednesday, the White House announced a new effort to increase broadband access, particularly in rural areas where coverage and speeds are insufficient to accommodate needs for health care, education and commerce.  With input from a range of federal agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services and Interior as well the Federal Communications Commission, the American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report offers recommendations grouped into three categories: streamlining federal permitting processes to speed broadband deployment, leveraging federal assets to lower the cost of broadband build-outs, and maximizing the impact of federal funding.  See the Funding Opportunities section below for announcements related to broadband access and telecommunications specific to rural areas.

Join the All of Us National Research Program

The All of Us Research Program is a historic effort to gather data over many years from one million or more people living in the United States, with the ultimate goal of accelerating research and improving health. Unlike research studies that are focused on a specific disease or population, All of Us will serve as a national research resource to inform thousands of studies, covering a wide variety of health conditions. Researchers will use data from the program to learn more about how individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biological makeup can influence health and disease. Participants may be able to learn more about their own health and contribute to an effort that may advance the health of generations to come.

Visit to learn more on the nationwide effort!

Program Overview – Information about the program.

Scientific Opportunities – The large and diverse participant group will help our researchers explore questions and answers on a whole new level.

Participation – How the research cohort will work, participation goals and guidelines.

Program Partners – An overview of the various partners that have been assembled to deliver the program.

Protocol – A detailed look at the program’s plans for building a robust research resource of data from one million or more participants.

Who We Are – The NIH established independent advisory groups comprised of members who have deep and diverse expertise.

Program FAQ – Frequently asked questions about the All of Us Research Program.

Contact Us – How to contact the All of Us Research Program.