The industry is just two weeks away from the beginning of Medicare's annual enrollment period, a critical window for the hottest market in insurance.
The period begins Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7, and Medicare beneficiaries will be tasked with the critical decision of enrolling in the fee-for-service program or opting instead for Medicare Advantage (MA). They'll also be able to choose prescription drug benefits and any other supplemental offerings that suit their needs for the coming year.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that MA premiums will rise by 4% in 2024, though most members won't feel the changes if they elect to stay with the same plan. The agency also estimates that MA enrollment will rise from 31.6 million in 2023 to 33.8 million, accounting for about 50% of all Medicare eligibles.
Sunday, CMS gave insurers the go-ahead to unveil their plans for 2024 as they prepare for enrollment to kick off.
Here's a look at what some of the major players have on the slate for 2024:
The largest MA carrier said it will expand its footprint to 110 additoinal counties in 2024, meaning its coverage area will reach 96% of Medicare consumers. Those new counties add 700,000 MA eligibles to its reach.
Given that broad reach, it's working to design benefits that appeal to a wide range of individual needs, executives said.
“We are focused on delivering the strong benefits we know our members use, value and rely on the most to support their health and wellbeing,” said Tim Noel, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, in the press release. “In 2024, our members will find it easier than ever to use their benefits and save more money.”
For one, members will have multiple offerings tied to their UCard and the UCard Hub app to make them easy and convenient to use, UnitedHealth said. The card includes all of the traditional features of a member ID card alongside tools that allow them to check in at pharmacies and retailers as well as spend reward points.
For those enrolled in dual special needs plans, the card also serves as the access point for grocery and over-the-counter benefits. Members can scan products while they're shopping to determine whether they'd be eligible for benefits and can scan a mobile card for payment at check out. UnitedHealthcare said it works at more than 55,000 retail locations.
In addition, UHC said that most members will see stable copayments for specialty and pharmacy services as well as overall out-of-pocket costs. All of its standard MA plans include $0 copays for virtual visits, mammograms, colonoscopies and routine dental, vision and hearing exams.
Humana will offer MA plans in 39 new counties for 2024, the insurer said, and as such will have plans available in 94% of counties nationwide. The company noted that it ranks No. 1 for the third year running for consumer experience among health plans on a Forrester's annual Customer Experience Benchmark Survey.
“We put our members at the center of everything we do. Again this year, we spent a lot of time getting to know our members better and understanding what benefits matter the most to them,” said George Renaudin, Humana’s president of Medicare and Medicaid, in the press release. “With affordability, stability and value top of mind, we expanded many of the most popular benefits to every single plan we offer, regardless of where the member lives.”
All of its MA plans for 2024 include dental, vision and hearing benefits, with key preventive dental care available with no copayment. In addition, Humana said it has made an effort to offer plans that provide greater network flexibility.
Its Open Network Medicare Advantage PPO plans are available in certain markets and allow members to seek care at any provider in the country that accepts Medicare without a referral. It also launched last year a new travel benefit for HMO plans that it's expanding in 29 states for 2024. Under this option, members can seek nonemergency services from contracted HMO providers while they travel, with no referral needed.
In its D-SNPs, enrollees can access a monthly Healthy Options allowance that can be applied to key essentials like healthy food, rent or utilities, and any unused balance will roll over to the next month.
With its 91-county expansion, Elevance Health will reach 93% of Medicare eligibles with plans it says put a focus on simplicity and choice for members.
Nine in 10 plans include $0 premiums, according to an announcement, and almost all come with a $0 copayment for primary care. Many plans also offer an allowance toward the purchase of over-the-counter hearing aids for members as well as an allowance that can be applied to both preventive and comprehensive dental services.
“When consumers are empowered to choose the benefits they value most, they are more likely to be satisfied customers,” said Elena McFann, president of Medicare for Elevance Health. “Consumers told us they want choice, simplicity, affordability, and support to achieve better health."
Elevance Health is also eliminating prior authorization requirements on some of the most commonly used healthcare services and making approvals in real time for many others.
Members can also select from a list of supplemental benefits, which Elevance calls Essential Extras, that allow them to choose the options that best meet their needs. These benefits range from vision or dental benefits to transportation assistance to coverage for utilities or healthy foods. The allowance is then loaded into a single prepaid card, allowing the member to use the funds at their convenience.
MA enrollees will also be connected to a single point of contact who serves as their champion, Elevance Health said, assisting them with resolving issues and addressing their needs.
The CVS Health company is making "significant investments" in its MA plans for 2024, expanding into 255 new counties to reach an additional 2.2 million Medicare beneficiaries. Aetna said the expansion makes for the "largest Medicare offering in our history."
Terri Swanson, president of Aetna Medicare, said in the press release that the company kept consumers' preference for personalized options "top of mind" in designing its 2024 lineup.
“Our experience shows Medicare consumers want more than just a one-size-fits-all approach to health care,” said Swanson. “They want personalized plans that fit their unique needs and budgets, and flexible benefits that matter most to them."
Aetna projects that 84% of people eligible for Medicare would have access to one of its $0 premium plans. Such plans are available in each county it serves, Aetna said, along with plan options that offer $0 copayments for primary care, Tier 1 medications, dental services, vision care, hearing care and/or an over-the-counter benefit.
All 2024 plans include a dental benefit, Aetna said, and all will offer a routine eye exam for $0. Coverage for eyewear varies between plans, according to the release.
A new option for 2024 is a fitness reimbursement, which members can apply to the activities they enjoy most, such as pickleball, golf, bowling, swimming or entrance to state and national parks for recreation. They can also connect with SilverSneakers fitness classes and Apple Fitness+, Aetna said.
Cigna is charting a significant expansion in MA for the sixth straight year, growing its footprint to 603 counties across 29 states. Twenty-five of those counties are new, including a first-time entry into Nevada, according to an announcement.
A plan with a $0 premium is available in every market, Cigna said, and most of its plans offer $0 copayments for primary care. Every plan includes coverage for dental, vision and hearing services, and an enhanced hearing benefit option covers hearing aids with "predictable" copays and routine exams.
Each plan also offers home delivery of meals post-hospitalization and access to benefits for fitness, Cigna said.
“Cigna Healthcare’s Medicare Advantage plans offer great choices for older adults looking to better manage their health, affordably,” said Chris DeRosa, president of the U.S. government business at Cigna Healthcare, in the release. “Our 2024 plans are designed to support a broader array of health needs, including dental, vision, enhanced hearing, as well as fitness and meal benefits."
Depending on geography and plan design, members may also have access to coverage for transportation to and from the doctor's office or the pharmacy, an allowance for over-the-counter products and virtual options for urgent care, behavioral health care, dermatology and speech therapy. Through the Cigna Health Today card, members can redeem rewards, incentives or allowances at more than 63,000 retailers.
Rewards are available for volunteerism activities as well as for wellness initiatives, Cigna said.