BMA: Medicare Advantage enrollment swells to 26M in 2021 thanks to plan offerings, employee options

Medicare Advantage
Growth in Medicare Advantage plans has been spurred by more plan options and an increase in employee retirement plans, a new report from the Better Medicare Alliance found. (Getty/designer491)

Medicare Advantage enrollment has swelled to 26 million individuals as of early 2021, an increase of nearly double over the past decade, a new report finds.

The report, released Thursday by the advocacy group Better Medicare Alliance, also showed that MA beneficiaries spent $1,640 less on healthcare costs than those in traditional Medicare. The report comes as insurers are increasingly bolstering their MA business.

“This report is a testament to the importance of continued stability and support from policymakers—both for the 26.5 million beneficiaries who choose Medicare Advantage now, and the additional 10,000 Americans who age into Medicare every day,” said Better Medicare Alliance President and CEO Allyson Schwartz in a statement.

The report found that MA enrollment made up 42% of all Medicare beneficiaries, and enrollment is expected to increase to more than 50% by 2030.

Part of the reason for the increase in enrollment is major growth in the number of plans offered as more insurers and startups become interested in the sector.

The report found that this year there were more than 4,800 plans offered, an increase of more than 2,100 compared to 2017.

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Another major reason was strong enrollment in employer retiree MA plans.

“Employers such as state and local governments, industries and unions chose [employer group waiver plans] to provide health insurance coverage to its retirees,” the report said.

Enrollment in such plans grew to 4.8 million in 2021, up from 3.8 million in 2017.

Better Medicare Alliance also found that recent polling shows “98% of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are satisfied with their coverage, while 97% are specifically satisfied with their network of physicians, hospitals and specialists,” the report said.

Most beneficiaries in MA choose a prescription drug plan, and more than 88% of all beneficiaries “have prescription drug coverage through a combined plan,” the report said.

Most beneficiaries are in an HMO plan followed by a PPO, it added.

BMA also found that the MA population has become increasingly diverse, with minorities comprising 33.7% of enrollees compared to 16% in traditional Medicare.

“Of all minorities, Hispanics have the greatest representation in Medicare Advantage, followed closely by non-Hispanic Black beneficiaries,” the report said.