Medicare Advantage: A look at how the 2017 market is shaping up

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On the eve of Medicare’s annual open enrollment period, a new analysis offers an overview of the lucrative--and growing--Medicare Advantage market.

Private Medicare plans now cover more than 18.5 million seniors, comprising about 32 percent of those eligible for Medicare benefits, according to Mark Farrah Associates. In the last three years, MA plans gained approximately 3.4 million members.

Here’s some of the report’s other findings:

  • Carriers will offer a total of 2,311 distinct MA plans in 2017, (including Medicare-Medicaid plans), up from 2,240 this year.
  • As has been the case in past years, HMO is the most prevalent plan type. With about 2,000 offerings, this plan type represents 71 percent of all MA and special needs plans on the market in 2017.
  • The prevalence of stand-alone prescription drug plans continues to decline, as the 757 offered this year is down from 897 in 2016. The report attributes this trend to some companies discontinuing PDPs that were similar to others, and the fact that there are fewer competitors as a result of industry consolidation.
  • Eighty-eight percent of MA plans include Part D benefits.
  • Monthly premiums range from $0 to $364. The greatest share of plans--39 percent--will offer plans with $0 premiums, while only 3 percent of plans will charge monthly premiums higher than $200.
  • With 376 distinct plan offerings for 2017, Humana will offer the more MA plans nationwide than any other company. But UnitedHealth is upping its presence, offering 282 plans next year compared to the 203 plans it offered this year. Aetna will offer 214 plans.

A previous Mark Farrah Associates analysis assessed trends in MA market penetration, finding that In five states in particular--Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Michigan--market penetration growth has exceeded the national rate.

Humana and Cigna, meanwhile, are facing downgrades in their plans’ MA star ratings for 2017, a development that has serious business implications because star ratings are tied to government bonus payments and customers tend to prefer higher rated plans.

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