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Annual Enrollment Period Produces Surge in Medicare Advantage Sign Ups

Medicare Advantage plan enrollment shot up once again during the annual fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period, and a recent study provides some context around the latest surge.

After the dust settled from Medicare’s fall Annual Enrollment Period (AEP, also called the fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period), a significant increase in Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) enrollment was unearthed. 

Based on preliminary data, the Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 enrollment period yielded a 9% year-over-year increase in Medicare Advantage plan enrollment. That skyrocketing increase pushed the number of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans past 24 million. 

2020 Medicare Open Enrollment Period trends

Some consumer trends from the 2020 fall open enrollment period were highlighted in a recent study that concluded:

  • 35% of people who enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in the fall did so because they have had a Medicare Advantage plan before and preferred it to Original Medicare.

  • 29% of enrollees cited prescription drug coverage as their top reason for signing up for a Part C plan.

  • 16% of enrollees cited greater affordability over Original Medicare as their top reason for joining a Medicare Advantage plan.

  • 45% of enrollees were enrolled in Original Medicare in 2020.

Medicare Advantage plans are distinguished by the extra benefits some plans may offer that are not found in Original Medicare. Of the survey respondents who cited supplemental benefits as their reason for enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, 62% said dental benefits were the most influential in their decision, while 52% cited vision as their top priority.

Those were followed by:

  • Over-the-counter benefits (38%)
  • COVID-19-related supplemental benefits (35%)
  • Transportation (30%)
  • Fitness (28%)
  • Telehealth (27%)
  • Hearing (25%)
  • In-home support services (23%)
  • Meals (22%)
  • Acupuncture (13%)
  • None of the above (12%)

The increased enrollment during the fall AEP reflected an upward trend in Medicare Advantage plan sign ups that’s been taking place for nearly 20 years. In 2005, just 13% of Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Enrollment has since increased every year except from 2015 to 2016, when it remained flat.