Premiums Down, Choices Up for Medicare Advantage Plans in 2020

Ian Kalin eHealth Chief Technology Officer 4


Seniors shopping for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans during this fall’s open enrollment period will be pleased to find premiums have dropped and plan options have increased for 2020, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). 

In late September, CMS reported the average monthly premium for MA plans is expected to be $23 in 2020, a decrease of 14 percent from an average of $26.87 in 2019, and down 28 percent since 2017. Notably, this year’s average MA premium is the lowest since 2007.

The number of MA plans available nationwide, meanwhile, will grow by 32 percent over last year, from 3,700 in 2019 to 4,900 this year. That translates into an increase in the average number of plan choices per county from 33 in 2019 year to 39 in 2020.

“This is great news for Medicare beneficiaries as they prepare for the upcoming open enrollment period,” said eHealth CEO Scott Flanders. “There’s been a tremendous amount of innovation and excitement in the Medicare Advantage market, leading to increased diversification of benefits, competition between insurers, and tremendous new opportunities for beneficiaries to make the most of their Medicare coverage.”

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Introduced in 1997, hybrid MA plans delivering Medicare coverage through a private insurance policy continue to grow in popularity. CMS reported MA enrollment is expected to hit an all-time high of 24.4 million beneficiaries in 2020, up 10 percent from last year’s 22.2 million, and up 30.6 percent since 2017. MA beneficiaries currently represent about 38 percent of the total 60 million seniors enrolled in the Medicare program.

According to CMS, beneficiaries have saved about $2.65 billion in combined MA and Part D prescription drug premium costs since 2016. CMS in July reported that the average monthly basic Part D premium had declined by 13.5 percent over the past three years.  In 2020, the projected average monthly basic Part D premium of $30 is the lowest the Part D basic premium has been since 2013.

The continued decline in MA and Part D premiums over the past three years is estimated to have saved taxpayers nearly $6 billion in the form of lower Medicare premium subsidies, CMS said.

Medicare Open Enrollment begins on October 15, 2019, and ends on December 7, 2019. During this time, Medicare beneficiaries can compare coverage options like Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage and choose health and drug plans for 2020. Medicare health and drug 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 meet their health needs.


Five Medicare Coverage Shopping Tips

eHealth, the nation’s largest online insurance broker, suggests the five following tips to help Medicare beneficiaries make the most of the open enrollment opportunities for coverage in 2020.

1.     Shop your 2020 coverage options. You may be happy with your current Medicare coverage, but you should still compare your options for 2020. The details of plans change each year, so the policy that was the least expensive or best match for you in 2019 may not be right for 2020. Changes to premiums, deductibles and co-pays can be costly. A recent analysis of  people using eHealth to compare Medicare plans found that fewer than 10 percent were enrolled in the lowest cost plan for their personal prescription drug regimen. Those who switched to their optimal drug plan stood to save an average of $531 per year.

2.     Look out for changes to your drug coverage. Check to make sure that the medications you need are still going to be covered by your plan in 2020, and pay close attention to any special rules you need to follow to get the most coverage for your medications. Read any mail you may receive from your insurance company outlining changes in your Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) or Part D prescription drug plan coverage. From year to year, insurance companies often tweak their drug formulary, or list of drug types and prices. That can mean higher out-of-pocket expenses throughout the year. Online tools, including eHealth’s prescription drug coverage comparison tool can help you find a better option for 2020.

3.     Make sure your preferred doctors are still covered.  Here’s another thing that can make a big difference when it comes to your Medicare coverage: the health care providers (doctors and hospitals) that are a part of your Medicare plan’s network often change each year as well. When considering new options, make sure your preferred providers are covered under any new plan that interests you. The amount you’ll pay out of pocket to get care from a doctor or hospital that does not participate with your plan will be higher than you’ll pay if you stay with a network provider, and some health insurers won’t cover out-of-network providers at all, except in an emergency.

4.     Compare services. Along with price comparisons, be sure to review the full range of services and benefits offered by competing Medicare plans. These can include everything from preferred pharmacy and mail-order prescription discounts to dental, vision, hearing and even fitness benefits. And for 2020, Medicare Advantage plans are able to offer supplemental benefits that provide additional assistance to those with chronic illness, such as non-emergency transportation, virtual medical visits, air conditioning and pest control, among others. Little differences can make all the difference when it comes to your satisfaction with your coverage.

5.     Work with a professional to understand your choices. To make sure you’re viewing a wide range of plans available on the market, work with an expert in Medicare products that represents more than just one insurance company. It doesn’t cost anything extra. Some people want their coverage bundled together and focused on a specific geographical area. Others don’t mind having two or more separate policies if it gives them more flexibility to choose doctors and travel. A licensed agent can help you get in touch with your options and understand how well they may match your needs, budget, and lifestyle.

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