You’ve heard the cable TV ads this month. And as the celebrity spokespersons tell it, there’s a Medicare Advantage plan out there that will practically make your coffee in the morning. Maybe not, but change is coming and a lot of it sounds good this time. Choices are going up and premiums are coming down. “The Medicare Advantage average monthly premium will be the lowest in 14 years (since 2007) for the over 26 million Medicare beneficiaries projected to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for 2021,” The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) said in a press release.
Health Payer Intelligence’s recent article entitled “Big Premium Drop, More Medicare Advantage Benefits Slated for 2021” explains that the high enrollment projections would represent a 44% enrollment increase since 2017. This includes a newly eligible population of end stage renal disease patients, which some say will up the costs for health plans. However, other patient populations and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries as a whole will have access to a wider range of benefits in 2020 and save money. There are numerous potential implications for elder law and estate planning.
Beneficiaries with diabetes are now able to select from more than 1,600 Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans—they all will have insulin for a copay of $35 per month in 2021. That’s because of the Part D Savings Model that CMS announced in March 2020, primarily in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Additional plans have joined this model, which has a fixed insulin copay rate for the coverage gap phase of Medicare coverage. CMS said that more than 1,750 Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans would participate in the model.
In addition, roughly 500 Medicare Advantage plans will offer lower copayments or supplemental benefits to enrollees with specific chronic diseases and other conditions. About 900 plans will offer benefits that aren’t primarily health benefits (such as meal delivery) to help enrollees manage their chronic diseases.
Enrollees will also have added access to supplemental benefits. Approximately 730 plans are offering their three million enrollees benefits like in-home support, therapeutic massage and adult day health services. Just over 50 Medicare Advantage plans are also offering palliative care and integrated hospice care. A total of 94% of Medicare Advantage plans will provide extra telehealth benefits, a 36% increase from 2020.
The good news is that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will pay less for these benefits this year than they have in the past. The average Medicare Advantage premium should go down about 11% to $21 in 2021. The decreases vary by states, and some will see up to a 50% decrease from their 2017 premiums.
In fact, premiums have been dropping since 2017, so beneficiaries have saved around $1.5 billion in premiums, CMS estimated. The number of Medicare Advantage plans is also going up. There will be 76.6% more Medicare Advantage plans available in 2021 than in 2017 (2,100 more health plans). The average number of plans per county will rise 78.5% since 2017 and from 39 plans in 2020 to 47 plans per county in the new year.
Medicare open enrollment began on Oct. 15, 2020 and ends Dec. 7, 2020.
Reference: Health Payer Intelligence (Sep. 29, 2020) “Big Premium Drop, More Medicare Advantage Benefits Slated for 2021”