Premiums for most Medicare Advantage (MA) plans will remain the same for the new year, and in some cases go down, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced. The health agency said the average monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage plan for 2019 is expected to be $28, down from $29.81. About 83% of beneficiaries who keep their existing plan will see the same or lower premiums, and about 46% are expected to join a plan with a zero cost premium.
This marks the fourth consecutive year of decreases for MA plans. That’s a significant contrast from most health plans for younger Americans, which continue to rise.
Medicare Advantage plan premiums are not the only good news for 2019. Plan choice are expanding in most areas, as are plan benefits.
According to David Bynon, “A flood of new Medicare Advantage plans for 2019 are expected to drive more seniors out of their current plan in search of lower premiums, more benefits and additional choices. More seniors will switch from traditional fee-for-service Medicare, too, as medical costs continue to skyrocket. We’re expecting to help more seniors than ever before, as they scramble to evaluate their options before the enrollment period ends.”
Major health insurers, including UnitedHealthcare, Humana, Aetna, Cigna and Anthem are all moving into new markets, offering more options for seniors in hundreds of counties. As a results, Medicare Navigators expects to see an overall increase in enrollments, as well as a record number of beneficiaries switching plans. CMS predicts that over 22 million beneficiaries will join a private health plan in 2019.
The number of MA plans increased by nearly 20% to 3,700 in 2019, up from 3,100 in 2018. According to CMS, “More than 91% of people with Medicare will have access to 10 or more Medicare Advantage plans in 2019, compared to nearly 86 percent in 2018.” That’s a significant bump that will help seniors in small, rural counties that previously had limited plan options.
UnitedHealthcare, The nation’s largest health insurer, is expanding its plan offerings into 130 more counties. For 2019, UnitedHealthcare will offer Medicare Advantage plans in 47 states and Washington D.C. Humana is expanding its popular HMO plans into 97 new counties and its premium PPO plans in 352 new counties. Anthem, the largest insurer under the Blue Cross Blue Shield banner, is launching its plans in 150 new counties.
Even as it works to complete its merger with CVS Health, Aetna launched Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug benefits in 358 new counties. It’s expansion pushes Aetna into six new states, and represents the most significant expansion of Medicare Advantage in the company’s history.
Cigna expanded into Florida, offering seniors two additional Medicare Advantage plans in the state. Florida is also fresh target for Anthem and Humana, both scrambling to snap up doctor practices and clinics and regional health plans in the Sunshine State to complement their Medicare Advantage plans.
David Bynon also said “With all of the new plan options in 2019, our plan finder is more necessary that ever. We want to show seniors all of their options. We want them to feel like they have all of the information they need to enroll in the best plan for their personal situation, not simply one of the limited plans available to a health insurance agent.”
Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C, contract with CMS to offer health insurance and provide extra benefits and services to seniors, such as managed care, telehealth, prescription drugs, vision and dental care. Seniors can use the Medicare Advantage Plan Finder at https://medicarewire.com/medicare-advantage/ to find and compare plans in their local market.
The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) starts October 15 and ends December 7. During AEP seniors can join a Medicare Advantage plan or renew their existing coverage. New plan elections begin January 1.