Medicare Advantage members have 'robust' plan choice

Medicare Advantage (MA) enrollees enjoy considerable plan choice and are likely to continue to do so even amid the wave of consolidation that has recently taken place in the health insurance industry, according to a new analysis from Avalere.

The advisory services company's latest snapshot of the program found that the average MA beneficiary had a choice of more than 18 plans in 2015. More than half (58 percent) could choose from at least 15 plans, and 94 percent had at least five MA plan options.

Plan choice is even higher among beneficiaries who live in one of the 30 U.S. counties with the highest MA enrollment. These 11 million beneficiaries have an average of 29 plan options. Additionally, in counties where plan choice is more limited, MA enrollment is considerably lower, the analysis notes.

"After examining the markets where Medicare Advantage choice is currently limited, the data reveal that choice is likely to remain robust, despite consolidation among plans," Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson said in an emailed statement to FierceHealthPayer. "Moreover, the recently announced deals could very well produce organizations that are more effective at managing risk and improving care quality."

Indeed, MA market share played a significant role in the Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers. Humana has long been regarded as a prized takeover asset due to its large share of MA business, and Anthem's deal with Cigna likewise will allow it to expand into the MA market.

Contrary to what some predicted, the MA program has soared in popularity since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, with its enrollment growing by 42 percent since 2010, FierceHealthPayer has reported. Seniors favor MA plans because of their affordability and because they can access health insurance through a private company.

Seventy-nine percent of all Medicare beneficiaries have access to a zero-premium MA plan, and 48 percent of MA enrollees have a zero-premium plan, the analysis found.

To learn more:
- check out the analysis

Related Articles:
Why Tavenner's new post, Aetna-Humana merger show Medicare Advantage's strength
Booming Medicare business could make Humana an acquisition target
Health policy experts say Medicare is more efficient than Medicare Advantage
Anthem to acquire Cigna in $54.2 billion deal
Aetna acquires Humana for $37B

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