Why Black Medicare Beneficiaries Are Choosing Medicare Advantage at a Higher Rate

Black Medicare beneficiaries are choosing Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans at a higher rate than the average for all Medicare beneficiaries. Learn more about the enrollment data and explore some reasons why this trend may be happening.

More than 4 out of every 10 Medicare beneficiaries is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plan. These plans, sold by private insurance companies, offer all the same benefits as Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B). Most Medicare Advantage plans also offer additional benefits such as prescription drug coverage, dental and vision care and other benefits not found in Medicare Part A or Part B. 


These 26 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are made up of people in various states and of different ages, genders, races and ethnic backgrounds. And a recent study highlights how attractive these plans have especially become to Black beneficiaries. 

Black beneficiaries are choosing Medicare Advantage at a higher rate 

From the study, 49% of all Black Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. 54% of Latino Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, making them the only ethnic group with a higher Medicare Advantage enrollment rate. 

The study was conducted by ATI Advisory and is based on 2018 data, the most recent year demographic data of Medicare beneficiaries is available.

34% of White beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, while 31% of beneficiaries of other ethnicities are enrolled in Part C plans.

Many Black beneficiaries who enroll in Medicare Advantage are saving money 

The decision to enroll in Medicare Advantage has been paying off for many Black beneficiaries.

According to the study, Black Medicare beneficiaries see an average annual savings of $1,270 when compared to those enrolled in Original Medicare. Annual out-of-pocket spending among Black beneficiaries averages $2,067 for those in Medicare Advantage plans, compared to $3,337 for those who have Original Medicare.

Why Are many Black Medicare beneficiaries choosing Medicare Advantage plans?

So why have Medicare Advantage plans become so popular among Black Medicare beneficiaries? The study did not gather data on any specific reasons why Black beneficiaries are choosing Medicare Advantage plans, but it does provide some data that may point to a few possible factors at play. 

Medicare Advantage plans can be a good fit for some people with low incomes

One might think that private Medicare insurance would be geared more toward beneficiaries of higher incomes. But the data suggests the opposite is true. 

Across all racial and ethnic groups, Medicare Advantage members are more likely to be of lower income than those enrolled in Original Medicare. Many Medicare Advantage plans do not require a premium to belong to the plan, and many beneficiaries can often obtain coverage for prescription drugs, dental, vision and hearing benefits at no extra cost by joining a plan that includes these benefits. 

According to the study, 77% of Black Medicare Advantage beneficiaries have a reported income of less than 200% of the federal poverty level, compared to 69% of Black beneficiaries enrolled in Original Medicare. Black Americans account for the largest percentage of people living in poverty, with a rate of 18.8% as of 2019. 

There are Medicare Advantage plans designed specifically for Medicaid beneficiaries

Black Americans accounted for 34% of all Medicaid beneficiaries in 2018. And Medicaid beneficiaries who are also eligible for Medicare may be able to enroll in a particular type of Medicare Advantage plan known as a Dual-eligible Special Needs Plan (D-SNP). These plans are designed with the needs of Medicaid beneficiaries in mind and offer coordinated care and administration of Medicare and Medicaid benefits. 

While 40% of all Black Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for Medicaid, 50% of Black beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans are eligible for Medicaid, according to the study.

Medicare Advantage plans can be better for people with chronic conditions 

People of color face higher rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer than White Americans.

Chronic condition Special Needs Plans (C-SNP) are a type of Medicare Advantage plan built specifically for the unique health care needs of someone with a chronic condition. These types of Medicare Advantage plans can offer beneficiaries with particular conditions more complete care than Original Medicare.  

Among Black Medicare beneficiaries, 46% of those enrolled in Original Medicare report having more than three chronic conditions, while 52% of those enrolled in Medicare Advantage report the same. 

The additional benefits included in some Medicare Advantage plans can be attractive to those in poor health

Not only are some Medicare Advantage plans tailored specifically to those with chronic conditions, but many plans offer additional benefits that are not found available in Original Medicare. These extra benefits found in some plans may include things like gym memberships, acupuncture, medical alert systems and more.  

These extra benefits can make Medicare Advantage plans more attractive to those in poor health, and 35% of Black beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans rate their health as poor or fair, compared to 30% Black beneficiaries who have Original Medicare. 

Many Medicare Advantage plans come in the form of Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans, which utilize a primary care doctor and coordination of care among the plan’s network of specialists for a more patient-focused approach to care. 

Medicare Advantage plans can better address certain social determinants of health (SDOH)

Black Medicare beneficiaries face higher rates of negative social determinants of health (SDOH), which can include things like food insecurity. 

Some Medicare Advantage plans may include benefits to address certain social determinants, such as providing discounts on healthy food options, coverage of over-the-counter health products and non-emergency medical transportation.

In conclusion 

Black Medicare beneficiaries enroll in Medicare Advantage plans at a higher rate than the overall average. Some of the possible reasons for the popularity of Medicare Advantage plans among Black beneficiaries include the way these plans address the needs of Medicaid beneficiaries and those with chronic conditions or other negative social determinants of health.  

How do you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan?

Compare plans for free online, or call today to speak with a licensed insurance agent who can help you compare Medicare plans available where you live.

Find a $0 premium Medicare Advantage plan today.

Speak with a licensed insurance agent



About the author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with MedicareAdvantage.com. He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

Christian has written hundreds of articles for MedicareAvantage.com that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at Mike@tzhealthmedia.com.

MarketWatch logo

Yahoo Finance logo 


WebMD Logo

South Florida Sun Sentinel Logo

WRAL.com Logo

Deseret News Logo

Healthcare Finance Logo