KFF: MA plans per beneficiary to reach highest level in 2020 in a decade

Medicare Advantage
The average Medicare beneficiary can choose between 28 Medicare Advantage plans next year, the highest total since 2010, a new analysis found. (Getty/designer491)

The average number of Medicare Advantage plans per beneficiary will increase in 2020 to the highest level since 2010, according to a new analysis.

The analysis released Thursday from the Kaiser Family Foundation found there will be 3,148 MA plans in 2020, an increase of 414 plans compared to 2019. Medicare Advantage has become a lucrative option for insurers, with 13 new insurers entering the market next year compared to one insurer exiting the market.  

The average Medicare beneficiary will have access to 28 MA plans next year, an increase from 24 in 2019.

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The number of plans per beneficiary is the highest since 2010 when Medicare customers could choose from 33 plans, according to Kaiser’s analysis.

However, there is a variation on the number of plans offered based on where the beneficiary is in the country.

For instance, beneficiaries in metropolitan counties can choose from an average of 31 plans compared to 16 plans in non-metropolitan counties, Kaiser said.

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In an interesting twist, six counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania will offer more than 60 plans per beneficiary on average. However, no plans will be offered in 77 counties, “accounting for less than 1% of beneficiaries,” Kaiser said.

The agency estimates 24.4 million Medicare beneficiaries out of about 60 million will get an MA plan in 2020. Currently, there are 22.2 million in MA.

Kaiser also found that the number of special needs plans will increase from 717 in 2019 to 855 next year.

The analysis of plan data from CMS found that 97% of all beneficiaries have access to dental, fitness, vision and hearing benefits not covered by traditional Medicare. But a high percentage of plans offered some transportation assistance (92%) and meal benefits (96%).

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Other benefits that were less available were bathroom safety improvements (49%), in-home support at 54% and telemonitoring services at 29%.

MA insurers have been imploring CMS to fund supplemental benefits that affect social determinants of health. Without that funding, plans are hesitant to take on social determinants of health that experts say are needed to lower healthcare costs.

Premiums for MA plans are expected to decline next year by 14% compared to 2019, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The Trump administration has sought to boost MA in recent years and point to growth in the program as a counter to Democratic proposals to expand Medicare to every American.

“Proposals for more government in our healthcare—such as Medicare-for-All—would eviscerate the progress we’ve made to strengthen the program by empowering patients to make informed choices in choosing high-quality plans that best fit their needs,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a release announcing the 2020 star ratings for Part D and MA plans.

Medicare open enrollment started on Oct. 15 and will run through Dec. 7.