Medicare Advantage premiums projected to go down to their lowest level in 13 years
WASHINGTON –Ahead of Medicare Open Enrollment, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Tuesday that, on average, Medicare Advantage premiums in 2020 are expected to decline 23% from 2018 while plan choices, benefits and enrollment continue to increase. The Medicare Advantage average monthly premium will be the lowest in the last 13 years for the more than 24 million people with Medicare who are projected to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for 2020.
“CMS has been delivering with its improvements to Medicare Advantage: lower costs, more options, and benefits tailored to patients’ needs,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This proven record of success—decreasing premiums in both Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D—contrasts with proposals for a total government takeover of healthcare, which would destroy options such as Medicare Advantage that seniors increasingly choose.”
This news comes as the agency releases the benefit and cost-sharing information for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans for the 2020 calendar year. Specific highlights include:
- The Medicare Advantage average monthly plan premium is expected to decrease 14% to $23.00 (estimated) in 2020 from an average of $26.87 in 2019. Since 2017, the average monthly Medicare Advantage premium has decreased by an estimated 27.9%. This is the lowest that the average monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage plan has been since 2007.
- Beneficiaries will have more plan choices, with about 1,200 more Medicare Advantage plans operating in 2020 than in 2018.
- The average number of Medicare Advantage plan choices per county will increase from about 33 plans in 2019 to 39 plans in 2020. This represents an increase of 49% since 2017.
- Medicare Advantage continues to be popular, with enrollment projected to increase to an all-time high of 24.4 million beneficiaries from the current enrollment of 22.2 million, out of approximately 60 million people currently enrolled in Medicare. Enrollment in Medicare Advantage in 2020 is expected to have increased by 30.6% since 2017.
- Coupled with the previously announced 13.5% decline in the average monthly basic Part D premium, beneficiaries have saved about $2.65 billion in Medicare Advantage and Part D premium costs since 2017. The projected average monthly basic Part D premium of $30 in 2020 is the lowest the Part D basic premium has been since 2013.
- The continued decline in Medicare Advantage and Part D premiums over the past three years is estimated to save taxpayers nearly $6 billion in the form of lower Medicare premium subsidies.
“These dramatically lower costs in Medicare Advantage and Part D, thanks to President Trump’s leadership, means that we are putting dollars back into the pockets of our seniors,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “On the contrast, proposals for more government through Medicare for All or a public option, would only harm the progress we have made to protect and strengthen the Medicare program for future generations.”
CMS has taken several actions over the last two years to protect and strengthen the Medicare Advantage and Part D programs, driving competition and lowering costs, including:
- Providing beneficiaries with more choices due to CMS removing limits requiring meaningful differences among a Medicare Advantage Organization’s plans beginning in 2019.
- Reducing burden for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans through streamlining government review and approval of marketing materials.
- Expanding access to 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 in 2018. About 300 plans in 2020 will offer up to 1.3 million Medicare Advantage enrollees with access to such benefits.
- Expanding opportunities for seniors to choose Medicare Advantage plans that are providing new supplemental benefits, or extra benefits, that are tailored to their specific needs to help them maintain their health. In 2020, about 500 plans will provide approximately up to 2.6 million Medicare Advantage enrollees with access to expanded primarily health related supplemental benefits, such as adult care services or caregiver support services.
- Expanding opportunities for chronically ill patients to choose Medicare Advantage plans that offer a broader range of supplemental benefits that are not necessarily health-related but may help to improve or maintain their health. For example, chronically ill beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can now receive meal delivery in more circumstances, transportation for non-medical needs like grocery shopping, and home environment services in order to improve their health or overall function as it relates to their chronic illness. About 250 plans in 2020 will offer access to these types of supplemental benefits reaching an estimated 1.2 million enrollees.
- Implementing legislation signed by President Trump to give seniors access to Medicare Advantage additional telehealth benefits so they can use telehealth technology to access more providers in more parts of the country. For 2020, over half of all plans will offer additional telehealth benefits, reaching approximately up to 13.7 million Medicare Advantage enrollees.
- Providing clinicians with more information on out-pocket-costs and lower cost alternatives for prescription drugs so they can discuss with beneficiaries at the time a prescription is written.
- Providing beneficiaries with more drug choices and empowering beneficiaries to select a plan that best meets their needs by allowing plans to cover prescription drugs differently depending on the reasons for which they are prescribed, an approach used in the private sector.
Not only are there additional lower-cost choices, it will be easier than ever to compare Medicare Advantage and Part D plans on Medicare.gov. As the 2020 Medicare Open Enrollment period approaches, CMS for the first time in a decade launched a modernized and redesigned Medicare Plan Finder – the most used tool on Medicare.gov – that allows users to shop and compare Medicare Advantage and Part D plans as well as compare pricing between original Medicare, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare supplemental insurance or Medigap policies.
CMS anticipates updating Medicare.gov with the 2020 Medicare Advantage and Part D premiums and cost-sharing information and releasing the Star Ratings for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans in early October.
Medicare Open Enrollment begins on Oct. 15 and ends on Dec. 7. 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. They can visit Medicare.gov (https://www.medicare.gov), call 1-800-MEDICARE, or contact their State Health Insurance Assistance Program. People who want to keep their current Medicare coverage do NOT need to re-enroll.
To view the premiums and costs of 2020 Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, please visit: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug-Coverage/PrescriptionDrugCovGenIn/index.html.
For state-by-state information on Medicare Advantage and Part D in 2020, please visit: https://cms.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/09-24-2019%20FINAL%202020%20MA%20Part%20D%20Landscape%20State-by-State%20Factsheets.pdf.