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Medicare Advantage Plans for Seniors Growing in 2019

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerFebruary 5, 2019
Medicare Advantage Plans for Seniors Growing in 2019

Seniors who are considering enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans can expect more choices and lower premiums in 2019 due to a surge in enrollment and new plan offers.

Learn more about these Medicare Advantage plans and how seniors can benefit from the program this year.

Insurance Companies Offer More Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Advantage is considered a premium program that is attractive to seniors because it offers dental and vision benefits, along with other coverage that traditional Medicare does not offer.

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According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), 23 million people are expected to enroll in the Medicare Advantage program this year. That surge in expected enrollment is attracting many insurance companies to offer new Medicare Advantage plans in 2019.

Fourteen insurance companies have begun offering new Medicare Advantage plans, significantly more than would join the program in a typical year. According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, this increased interest will result in more Medicare Advantage Plans on offer (approximately 3,700 plans) than any year since 2009.

Insurance companies also see the program as a safer investment now that initial skepticism about whether the new Trump administration would support the program has been relieved. The administration increased reimbursement rates and allowed insurance companies to make plans more individualized to fit seniors’ needs. These changes allowed insurance companies to offer new healthcare services to chronically ill patients, who were neglected under the old Medicare Advantage regulations.

“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,” says CMS Administrator Seema Verma. With “the popularity of programs, such as Medicare Advantage, and with the various new policy changes and supplemental benefits that have been adopted, we expect plan choices to be even more robust moving forward,” Verma states in a recent press release.

Lowering Medicare Advantage Premiums

As more insurance companies offer the program, they must lower their premiums to be competitive. The advantage for seniors is better coverage at less cost. Some seniors even pay lower rates for Medicare Advantage than they would have paid for traditional Medicare.

In 2019, Medicare Advantage premiums are expected to drop by 6%. On average, premiums will be $28, the lowest they’ve been in three years. Those seniors who are looking for this low-cost option will not have to look far. More than half of Medicare beneficiaries have six insurance companies to choose from. For individuals, most of these plans include prescription drug coverage. The average beneficiary who has prescription drug coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan has no monthly premium.

Normally, the downside to low-cost health care is the restrictions on doctors and hospitals that beneficiaries can visit. However, that may be changing too. To differentiate themselves from the competition, Clover Health plans on expanding the doctors and hospitals available to their Medicare Advantage plans.

Vivek Garipalli, CEO of Clover Health, told Kaiser Health News (KHN) that the company also wants to allow their members to see specialists without a referral from their primary care physician.

Insurance companies aren’t the only ones expanding Medicare Advantage access. In 2019, for the first time, some non-profit hospitals have also begun to offer services to Medicare beneficiaries, including the BayCare Health System in Tampa, Florida.

The Future of Medicare Advantage Plans

These changes to Medicare Advantage don’t show signs of slowing down.

Robert Berenson, a Medicare expert at the Urban Institute, told KHN that the insurance industry believes “that their future is Medicare and it’s crazy not to pursue Medicare enrollees more actively.”

So long as insurance companies are offering, seniors will continue to benefit from the program. As it stands now, Medicare Advantage enrollment is now 36% of overall Medicare enrollment.

Are you planning on enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2019? We’d like to hear from you in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
Kimberley Fowler

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