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Medicare Advantage Premiums Decline, Benefits to Increase

October 2, 2018, 8:09 AM HST
* Updated October 2, 8:21 AM
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On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will decline while plan choices and new benefits increase, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on Oct. 1, 2018.

In addition, Medicare Advantage enrollment is projected to reach a new all-time high, with more than 36% of Medicare beneficiaries projected to be enrolled in Medicare Advantage in 2019. This news comes as the agency releases the benefit and premium information for Medicare health and drug plans for the 2019 calendar year.

“Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage demonstrate the successes possible when we harness consumer choice and private-sector innovation to improve care and lower cost,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Efforts to strengthen negotiation and competition in Medicare Part D are bearing fruit in the form of lower drug costs for American seniors, a key priority for President Trump. Meanwhile, the significant steps taken to maximize competition among Medicare Advantage plans and support and empower Medicare beneficiaries are a crucial piece of allowing patients to define and drive value, which the Trump Administration has made a priority.”

“The steps that the Trump Administration has taken to improve and drive competition in Medicare Advantage means more savings, more benefits and lower costs for seniors,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “The popularity of programs such as Medicare Advantage, and with the various new supplemental benefits and policy changes that have been adopted, we expect plan choices to be even more robust moving forward.”

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The Medicare Advantage average monthly premium continues to steadily decline, and will be the lowest in the last three years. On average, Medicare Advantage premiums in 2019 are estimated to decrease by 6% to $28 from an average of $29.81 in 2018. Nearly 83% of Medicare Advantage enrollees remaining in their current plan will have the same or lower premium in 2019. Approximately 46% of enrollees in their current plan will have a zero premium.

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Medicare Advantage will be offering approximately 600 more plans in 2019. The number of plans available to individuals to choose from across the country is increasing from about 3,100 to about 3,700—and more than 91% of people with Medicare will have access to 10 or more Medicare Advantage plans, compared to nearly 86% in 2018. Access to the Medicare Advantage program remains strong, with about 99% of people with Medicare having access to a Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage enrollment is projected to increase to an all-time high from the current enrollment of 20.2 million to 22.6 million in 2019, an 11.5% increase compared to 2018.

As a result of the new flexibilities on supplemental benefits available for the first time in 2019, about 270 plans are providing nearly 1.5 million enrollees with access to the following new types of benefits:

  • Expanded health related supplemental benefits, such as adult day care services, in-home support services, caregiver support services, home-based palliative care and therapeutic massage; and
  • Reduced cost sharing and additional benefits for enrollees with certain conditions, such diabetes and congestive heart failure, due to the agency’s reinterpretation of uniformity.
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The access to new supplemental benefits is a positive start for 2019, and CMS expects continued growth in 2020, as plans take advantage of these new flexibilities to attract new beneficiaries. In addition, more Medicare Advantage enrollees are projected to have greater access to important supplemental benefits such as dental, vision, hearing, over-the-counter items, meals, nursing hotlines and transportation for medical services (for example, doctor visits).

Access to the Medicare Part D prescription drug program remains universal in 2019 with 100% of beneficiaries having access to a stand-alone prescription drug plan. Earlier this year, CMS announced that, for a second year in a row, the average monthly basic Part D premiums are expected to fall from $33.59 this year to $32.50 next year. The agency had announced several changes in the Part D program to provide Part D plans with additional tools to strengthen negotiations with drug manufacturers to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

As the 2019 Medicare Open Enrollment period approaches, CMS is continuing to improve the Medicare.gov website for Medicare plan selection, so beneficiaries can more easily compare options and choose the plan that best fit their needs. Medicare Open Enrollment for 2019 Medicare health and drug plans begins on Oct. 15, 2018, and ends Dec. 7, 2018.

Plan costs and covered benefits can change from year to year, so people with Medicare should look at their coverage choices and decide on the options that best fits their health needs. They can visit Medicare.gov, call 1-800-MEDICARE, or contact their State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Those with Medicare who do not wish to change their current coverage do not need to re-enroll in order to keep their current coverage.

For a fact sheet on Medicare Advantage and Part D in 2019, go online.

To view the premiums and costs of 2019 Medicare health and drug plans, click here.

Download state-by-state information on Medicare Advantage and Part D in 2019.

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