Analysis finds 64% more Medicare Advantage plans offer expanded supplemental benefits for 2021

Medicare Advantage
The number of plans offering expanded supplemental benefits increased by 64% for 2021 compared with 2020, a new analysis from the Better Medicare Alliance found. (Getty/designer491)

The number of Medicare Advantage (MA) plans offering at least one of five expanded supplemental benefits increased 64% for the 2021 coverage year compared with 2020, a new analysis finds.

The analysis (PDF), released Wednesday by the advocacy group Better Medicare Alliance (BMA), comes as plans can offer wider benefits on adult day care and home-based palliative care among other options for 2021.

“With the uptake of these benefits expanding yet again … it’s clear that CMS’ flexibilities have met a need and Medicare Advantage plans are responding with innovations in benefits and care delivery,” said BMA President Allyson Schwartz in a statement.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) greatly expanded in 2018 and 2019 the types and flexibility of supplemental benefits MA plans can offer.

The analysis, conducted by consulting firm Milliman, looked at the number of plans that took on five supplemental benefits: adult day health services, home-based palliative care, in-home support, caregiver support and therapeutic massage.

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It found, overall, 575 plans decided to offer the supplemental benefits for the 2021 coverage year, for which open enrollment started last month. That is a major increase from the 351 that decided to offer the benefits for 2020, the analysis found.

“With the exception of therapeutic massage, all of the identified benefits have increased in plan prevalence each year,” the analysis said.

The benefit with the biggest increase was in-home support services, with 296 plans offering the benefit for 2021 compared with 148 in 2020.

The firm did find that the number of plans offering more than one of the benefits increased by 82% from 96 plans in 2020 to 175 for the 2021 coverage year.

Milliman looked at benefit information provided by CMS to explore the uptake of supplemental benefits.

Many health insurers have bolstered their presence in the MA marketplace over the years, and supplemental benefits have become a key selling point to Medicare beneficiaries.