KFF: Seniors have, on average, 43 Medicare Advantage plan options to choose from

Medicare Advantage (MA) beneficiaries have a wealth of options to choose from when it comes to plans for 2023, with a new analysis finding an average beneficiary can pick among 43 plans, more than double the 20 plans in 2018.

The analysis, released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, comes as more insurers are entering the MA market. MA is also likely to make up more than half of total Medicare enrollment in the 2023 coverage year. 

“More Medicare Advantage plans are being offered for 2023 than in any other year since 2010, confirming the attractiveness of this market for insurers across the country,” according to the analysis. “The sheer number of plans presents both opportunities (to shop for better coverage) and challenges (to decipher potentially important differences across plans).”

On average, a Medicare beneficiary can choose from 43 plans offered by nine insurers. That figure is slightly above 2022 when the average beneficiary had 38 to choose from.

In total, there are 3,998 MA plans being offered for 2023, a 6% hike compared to this current year. Nearly all the plans (89%) also offer prescription drug coverage.

There is some variation in the plan growth, with some states showing a larger spike than others. For instance, Texas saw an increase of 42 more plans, but Kansas and Maine had three fewer each. 

Special needs plans also increased to 1,284 in 2023, growing 11% compared with 2022. The rise in special needs plans for people who require an institutional level of care has been particularly notable, nearly doubling from 97 plans in 2018 to 189 plans in 2023 (an increase of five plans since 2022), the analysis said. 

UnitedHealthcare and Humana are the two top insurers with MA enrollees, and that presence is likely to continue into 2023. 

“About nine in 10 (92%) Medicare beneficiaries have access to at least one Humana plan and 95% have access to at least one UnitedHealthcare plan,” the analysis said.

Major insurers have also expanded their footprint in 2023. For instance, Centene was offering plans in 1,525 counties for 2022, and that figure jumped to 1,739 for next year. 

Blue Shield insurers also offer plans in 2,466 counties in 2023 compared to 2,169 this year. 

There are eight firms that entered the market for the first time and are offering plans for 2023, and there are eight firms that previously participated in MA that aren’t going to offer plans next year.

Kaiser noted that insurers are drawn to the MA market since it is “profitable relative to other health insurance markets, and this comes at a cost to Medicare, in that Medicare currently pays Medicare Advantage 104% of traditional Medicare costs.”

The number of MA beneficiaries is expected to surpass total Medicare enrollment in 2023, as the program continues to surge in popularity among seniors. Open enrollment for Medicare will run through Dec. 7.

“As the market continues to grow, and enrollment continues to climb, it will be increasingly important to assess how well Medicare Advantage is serving beneficiaries in terms of costs, quality, benefits and patient outcomes, as well as how well Medicare’s current payment methodology for Medicare Advantage is working to hold down beneficiary costs,” the analysis said.