Medicare Advantage Plans Rise

More Americans are choosing Medicare Advantage Plans as observed with a 9% year-over-year increase in the number of US Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage health plan in 2020. This increase is influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and its related effects.

Empirical Evidence

Data collected from October to December 2020 say that 36% of the 67.7 million Medicare beneficiaries in the U.S. are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan for 2021 – a 9% year-over-year increase. In addition, a study conducted by MedicareAdvantagePlans.org suggests that Medicare Advantage plans have grown more popular in recent years because it has been associated with being more cost-effective, flexible, and typically including Part D prescription drug coverage. Results of its survey say that this year’s increase in enrollment was influenced by several factors, particularly COVID-19 and its related effect. The survey* results are as follows:

  • 29% chose the plan for its prescription drug coverage
  • 16% chose the plan for its affordability
  • 9% chose the plan for its supplemental benefits
    • Of this 9%, 35% cited COVID-19 supplemental benefits and 27% referenced its telehealth benefits

*Survey respondents are adult Americans eligible for Medicare and already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan for 2021.

Projections

More than 94% of MA plans are expected to offer additional telehealth benefits. This number is up from approximately 58% of plans who already offered these benefits in 2020. Also indicated as reasons for enrolling in a MA plan in 2021 included additional supplemental benefits. These include benefits such as dental (62%), vision (52%), and over-the-counter benefits (38%).

Authors of the study say that there will be a 64% year-over-year increase in the number of MA plans offering expanded supplemental benefits. Also, because of the pandemic, 34% of Medicare Advantage plans now offer COVID-19-related supplemental benefits in 2021. These include covering costs for testing, personal protecting equipment (PPE), and care packages.

45% of the respondents are switching from their original Medicare plan to a Medicare Advantage plan in 2021. 51% of all Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in a MA plan by 2030, as the Congressional Budget Office projects.

So, what is stopping more Americans from transitioning to MA plans? The authors highlight an article from The New York Times to shed some light on this issue. According to the article, a staggering 57% of Medicare enrollees do not review or compare their coverage options annually. That includes 46% who never or rarely revisit their plans. These numbers suggest that there is a great number of consumers who are possibly missing out on MA benefits because they do not know what they are, or because they do not understand how it could be better for them.

Average 2021 premiums for Medicare Advantage plans are expected to decline 34.2% from 2017. These will be the lowest average monthly premiums since 2007.

 

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