Medicare covers home health benefits for homebound beneficiaries who need intermittent skilled care. While home health care can help prevent costlier institutional care, some studies have suggested that traditional Medicare beneficiaries may overuse home health care. This study compared home health use in Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare, as well as within Medicare Advantage by beneficiary cost sharing, prior authorization requirement, and plan type. In 2016 Medicare Advantage enrollees were less likely to use home health care than traditional Medicare enrollees were, had 7.1 fewer days per home health spell, and were less likely to be admitted to the hospital during their spell. Among Medicare Advantage plans, those that imposed beneficiary cost sharing or prior authorization requirements had lower rates of home health use. Qualitative interviews suggested that Medicare Advantage payment and contracting approaches influenced home health care use. Therefore, changes in traditional Medicare home health payment policies implemented in 2020 may reduce these disparities in home health use and spell length.
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