The number of MA plans offering supplemental benefits continues to rise, study finds

Medicare Advantage
A new report examines the growing number of supplemental benefits in Medicare Advantage plans. (Getty/designer491)

The number of Medicare Advantage plans that offer supplemental benefits continues to grow, according to new data from the Better Medicare Alliance.

The analysis, conducted by Milliman, found the number of plans offering such benefits increased across 36 out of 41 categories from 2020 to plan year 2021. That includes increases across 15 of 17 traditional supplemental benefit categories, four of five new expanded categories and 17 of 19 supplemental benefits for the chronically ill categories.

For example, 57% of plans now offer a meal benefit, and 46% will cover members' transport to and from doctors' visits.

The most common benefits offered, according to the report, include vision (offered by 96% of plans), hearing (93%), fitness (92%) and dental care (87%).

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“This analysis provides unique insight into the ways that Medicare Advantage continues to innovate and enhance benefit offerings, even in the face of the extraordinary circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Allyson Schwartz, CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance, in a statement.

"The growth of extra benefits and lower out-of-pocket available to seniors, including those particularly targeted to individuals with chronic conditions, demonstrates the value that Medicare Advantage continues to deliver for millions of beneficiaries," Schwartz said.

For benefits targeting chronic conditions specifically, diabetics were the most targeted patient population, the study found. In the 2021 plan year, 293 Medicare Advantage plans offered lower cost sharing and/or additional benefits targeting members with diabetes, reaching close to 1.5 million people.

The number of plans offering supplemental benefits for members with behavioral health diagnoses also grew significantly in 2021, according to the analysis, growing from just five plans in 2020 to 135 plans.

In addition, benefits targeting chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and congestive heart failure were also common, the study found.