Study: Medicare Advantage enrollment hits record high

Medicare Advantage insurers can rejoice at a new report concluding that enrollment in the private government plan hit an all-time high of 14.4 million people in 2013.

The Kaiser Family Foundation's study, which was released Monday, found that Medicare Advantage enrollment increased by almost 10 percent since last year and 30 percent since 2010. And five insurer –UnitedHealth, Blue Cross Blue Shield and its affiliates, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and Aetna–continue to dominate the Medicare Advantage market with 63 percent of all Medicare Advantage members, according to the study.

Although 28 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries are now enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, the amount of market penetration rate differs by states. In Alaska and Wyoming, for example, only 1 percent of beneficiaries belong to a Medicare Advantage plan. On the other hand, states like Minnesota have a 49 percent share of Medicare Advantage members.

"This variation reflects both the greater prevalence of Medicare Advantage plans in metropolitan areas and other factors, such as the history of managed care in the state and the prevalence of employer-sponsored insurance for retirees," the study found.

These large enrollment surges come despite the reform law's payment cuts to Medicare Advantage, which have led many insurers to question the program's viability and sustainability. UnitedHealth, for example, has even considered reducing its Medicare Advantage benefits next year to ensure the plans remain profitable.

Study authors recognized the unpredictability of the market. "While the market has been relatively stable and plan enrollment has continued to grow, it remains to be seen how companies will respond to reductions in payments implemented as part of the ACA," the study said.

To learn more:
- here's the study