BMA: Plans offering extra Medicare Advantage supplemental benefits grow by 43%

nurse taking elderly patient's blood pressure
More plans are offering supplemental benefits such as in-home support services for the 2022 coverage year, a new analysis from the Better Medicare Alliance found. (Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock)

The number of Medicare Advantage plans offering at least one of five recently expanded supplemental benefits increased by 43% from 2021 to the 2022 coverage year, a new analysis finds.

The findings, released Thursday by the Better Medicare Alliance (BMA), come as supplemental benefits not offered by traditional Medicare have become a popular tool by insurers to market MA plans, an increasingly lucrative space for the industry.

Overall, MA plans that offered at least one of the five expanded benefits increased from 575 in 2021 to 824 for 2022, according to the analysis conducted by consulting firm Milliman. The five supplemental benefits offered are adult day health services, home-based palliative care, in-home support services, caregiver support and therapeutic massages.

“When CMS first expanded primarily health-related benefits such as these allowable in Medicare Advantage, many wondered what the uptake by health plans would be,” said BMA President and CEO Mary Beth Donahue in a statement. Donahue added that the benefit offerings grew by 134% since 2020.

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In-home support services are the most popular of the five supplemental benefits examined by Milliman, with 544 plans adopting the benefit for 2022. The second most popular was therapeutic massage with 160.

“With the exception of therapeutic massage from 2020 to 2021 and adult day health services from 2021 to 2022, all of the identified benefits have increased in plan prevalence each year,” the analysis said.

MA plans are required to cover all benefits offered by traditional Medicare but can offer supplemental benefits not available such as dental, vision and hearing.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) gave more flexibility in 2018 to plans to offer certain benefits that target specific disease states.

Milliman’s analysis is based on benefits data made available by CMS.

More MA plans are starting to embrace other types of supplemental benefits. An analysis from consulting firm Avalere found more plans are offering benefits that tackle social determinants of health.