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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Medicare Beneficiaries Suffer From Unmet Need for Long-Term Services and Supports

A study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that two-thirds of older adults who are aging in place use some degree of long-term services and supports not covered by Medicare, including assistive devices such as canes and walkers.

The findings, which were published earlier this year by the Commonwealth Fund, suggest that Medicare is not meeting the medical and non-medical needs of beneficiaries, particularly lower-income beneficiaries eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. Many experience adverse consequences from not receiving care.

The study found that nearly two-thirds of all community-dwelling, older Medicare beneficiaries receive help, use an assistive device or have difficulty with one or more activities of daily living. Of these two-thirds, approximately half need help from a caregiver or depend on assistive devices for two or more basic activities. The remaining half need less assistance, having difficulty or relying on an assistive device for one activity only.

Whatever the level of need, assistive devices play a crucial role in supporting most — six in 10 — older adults in their daily lives. As of 2018, Medicare Advantage plans can now provide beneficiaries with non-medical benefits, such as long-term services and supports, which Medicare does not cover. But the authors note that only the one-third of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans stand to benefit.

Dr. Amber Willink, assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management, was the lead author. Co-authors include Dr. Judith Kasper, Ms. Maureen E. Skehan, Dr. Jennifer L. Wolff, Mr. John Mulcahy and Dr. Karen Davis.

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