Open Enrollment at the Halfway Mark: eHealth Data Show Medicare Advantage Premiums Down Sharply
Some healthcare costs are actually coming down —and dramatically so.
That’s the surprising conclusion of a new eHealth report, which analyzed costs and trends among consumers who selected Medicare insurance products through eHealth during the first half of this year’s annual open enrollment period.
According to eHealth’s analysis, the average monthly premium for Medicare Advantage plans selected by eHealth customers between October 15 and November 8 fell 43% from the same period a year ago, to $5.47 from $9.53 in 2019.
This year’s average premium among people who bought coverage through eHealth also was 76% lower than the $23 average Medicare Advantage premium the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in September, before Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) got underway. CMS expects 24.4 million Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans in 2020, up from 22.2 million in 2019.
Customers embrace zero-premium plans
eHealth experts say the increasing popularity of $0 premium Medicare Advantage plans likely contributed to the premium drop. The new report shows the proportion of eHealth Medicare Advantage customers who selected plans with $0 premiums rose to 83% during the first three weeks of open enrollment, up from 76% at this time last year. According to CMS, 90% or more of Medicare beneficiaries in 46 states now have the option to choose $0 premium plans.
Drug plan premiums down
In addition to the substantial drop in Medicare Advantage premiums, average monthly premiums for eHealth customers purchasing stand-alone Part D prescription drug plans also were lower through the first half of open enrollment, down 15% to $19.76 from $23.34 last year.
The Kaiser Family Foundation recently determined that millions of current enrollees in Part D plans will face premium and other costs increases next year if they don’t switch to lower-cost plans during this year’s open enrollment, which ends December 7. The organization attributed the anticipated increases in part to plan consolidations by some health insurance companies.
Medigap plans increase
While eHealth customers who enrolled in Medicare Advantage and stand-alone Part D plans enjoyed premium reductions, those enrolled in original Medicare who bought supplemental or Medigap plans saw a modest increase in premiums through the first half of open enrollment.
The average monthly Medigap premium increased 8%, from $145.62 during the 2019 open enrollment period to $157.48 this year. As of January 2020, two of the most popular supplemental plan options – Plan F and Plan C – will no longer be available to new Medicare members or those born after January 1, 1955.
Plan F traditionally has been the most comprehensive Medigap policy available, covering all Medicare deductibles, copays and coinsurance for Medicare Part A and Part B (hospitalization and outpatient care). Plan C provides similar coverage but offers slightly fewer benefits.
The good news is that Plan G, another Medigap policy, offers the same level of coverage provided by Plan F – minus the Part B deductible – and will remain available after January 2020. The Part B deductible is $144.60 in 2020.
eHealth will continue to monitor consumer behavior and plan selection patterns through the remainder of the open enrollment period and publish additional insights as they become available.