In 2003, just over five million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, which represented only 13 percent of the total Medicare beneficiary population.
By 2020, total Medicare Advantage enrollment has more than tripled to reach more than 22 million, which is more than one out of every three Medicare beneficiaries.1
What could this growth trend tell us about the future of the Medicare Advantage program? Here are four possibilities based on current health care trends.
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Medicare Advantage plans offer the same benefits that are covered by Medicare Part A and Part B (Original Medicare), and many Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits not covered by Original Medicare.
These extra benefits may include coverage for:
These additional benefits can serve as an incentive to consumers. Some plans even offer more benefits like memberships to gyms or wellness programs such as SilverSneakers.
These extra benefits first have to be approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) before being included in a plan.
In 2018, CMS expanded its definition of the “primary health-related” benefits that insurance companies are allowed to include in Medicare Advantage plans. As a result, new benefits were available to be added to some Medicare Advantage plans starting in 2019 and 2020.
These new benefits may include services such as:
The number of available Medicare Advantage plan options in the U.S. is on the rise.
In 2012, there were a total of 1,974 Medicare Advantage plans available nationwide. By 2020, that number increased to 3,148. Also in 2020, the average Medicare beneficiary can choose from 28 available plan options, compared to only 18 plan options in 2014.1
Many Medicare Advantage plans offer $0 premiums.
With more Medicare Advantage plan options being sold by more providers, the increased competition between insurance companies helps keep costs low for consumers.
And with more benefits being approved for use, plan providers may gain even greater flexibility with their pricing and coverage offerings.
The Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) put an incentive system in place for Medicare Advantage plans. Beginning in 2012, plans that provide high-quality care will receive a bonus or rebate. By law, the bonus money must be reinvested in additional plan benefits.
Going forward, Medicare Advantage plan providers will no doubt continue to adapt and improve the quality of the plans they offer in order to meet these bonus requirements.
In addition to the bonus program, Medicare issues star ratings for all Medicare Advantage plans each year, and these Medicare Star Ratings can be a large point of emphasis for shoppers.2
Medicare offers a Special Enrollment Period for anyone who is not enrolled in a five-star Medicare Advantage plan (the highest Medicare Star Rating) and wants to switch to one. The continued emphasis on star ratings by Medicare Advantage consumers could help keep plan quality in check for years to come.
If Medicare Advantage plan benefits and quality continue to increase while prices remain stable or possibly drop, Medicare Advantage enrollment will likely continue to go up as well.
The Baby Boomer generation is now aging into Medicare eligibility, and there are more people age 65 and older in America with each passing day.
Humana, one company that provides Medicare Advantage plans, pulled out of the individual health insurance exchange in 2018 to invest more heavily in the Medicare Advantage program.3
Steven Nelson, CEO of Medicare Advantage plan provider UnitedHealthcare, predicted that 50% of seniors will soon be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.4
Nobody knows for sure what the future will hold, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of Medicare Advantage plans.
You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Enrollment Period, when you first become eligible for Medicare.
You can also enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the annual Fall Open Enrollment Period, which lasts from October 15 to December 7 each year.
To learn more about Medicare Advantage plans in your area, call to speak with a licensed insurance agent today.
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Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for MedicareAdvantage.com. He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.
His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.
Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.
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