Medicare's annual enrollment period opens soon, and major insurers are making the pitch now to potential members in the coming year.
Medicare Advantage (MA) is a hot market for insurers, and there's significant growth potential for plans who come out strong in the AEP, which begins Oct. 15. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services predicts that 31.8 million people will enroll in MA for 2023, and the program is projected to serve more than half of all Medicare beneficiaries in short order.
The Kaiser Family Foundation said that 28 million people, or about 48% of the Medicare population, enrolled in MA for 2022.
As the industry gears up for the AEP, here's a look at what five national insurers have in store for the 2023 plan year.
The country's largest commercial insurer said it will reach 95% of Medicare beneficiaries with one of its MA offerings for 2023 and is planning to expand into 314 new counties. Those new regions will add 2.3 million people to its footprint, the company said. UHC will also reach an additional 145,000 people eligible for dual special needs plans.
New options added for 2023 include a flex benefit in select plans, which will allow members to extend their existing dental, vision and hearing benefits. The company said that almost all (99%) of its members are in plans with stable or reduced premiums, including 3.3 million people enrolled in plans with $0 premiums.
UnitedHealthcare is also taking its UCard benefit national, according to the release. Using the card, members can access their care, spend rewards, shop with their benefits and more in one location, the insurer said. Benefits integrated into UCard include healthy food benefits, fitness benefits or over-the-counter stipends. Members can earn rewards by completing certain tasks, like preventive services such as mammograms, receiving a house call visit or reaching monthly activity goals.
“Our investments this year are focused on plan benefits that matter most to consumers—with an emphasis on better-than-ever ancillary benefits, such as dental, lower prescription drug costs, and further improvements to core benefits," Bobby Hunter, senior vice president of MA product and experience at UnitedHealthcare, told Fierce Healthcare. "We’ve also listened to our members when it comes to their experience and how we can make that more seamless and efficient."
Humana fell short of expectations in the 2022 AEP, and the insurer has spent much of this year preparing for a rebound. The company plans to bring its HMO plans to 260 new counties and introduce Medicare LPO plans to 260 counties as well, which would allow it to reach 4.6 million more potential members in the coming year.
The insurer said it is making significantly more plans with $0 premiums available, as well as $0 prescription copayments in dual special needs plans. Humana will also offer a flexible annual allowance in certain plans to assist members with covering out-of-pocket dental, vision or hearing costs. MA prescription drug plans feature more $0 vaccinations as well as caps on insulin costs.
MA members who are struggling with loneliness can connect with Papa for assistance from a Papa Pal, a college student who will visit with seniors as well as perform light housework, and members in some plans, such as D-SNPs, can access a healthy options allowance that can apply for multiple health-related social supports, including groceries, rent and utilities, transportation and pest control.
"We're very excited about this AEP. We did not meet our goals for '22, so we did a lot of inward looking and listening to our customers, trying to figure out where we need to improve," George Renaudin, president of Medicare at Humana, told Fierce Healthcare. "I feel very confident that we'll get back to our leadership position in MA. We feel very good about where we've gone—we've implemented a few very specific and targeted benefit improvements that I think speak directly to what we've learned from listening to our customers and the brokers who sell the products."
The CVS Health subsidiary will offer MA plans across 46 states and the District of Columbia for 2023 and is adding 141 new counties to that footprint. Aetna estimates that geographic expansion will enable to reach 1 million more Medicare beneficiaries.
In Pennsylvania, Aetna is introducing a new Medicare longevity plan option, an institutional special needs plan designed for people living in nursing homes. The plans offer prescription drug coverage as well as greater access in their facility to on-site care. Members in this plan can receive additional benefits that are designed to improve their quality of life by addressing unique emotional, social and medical needs, Aetna said.
A new benefit for 2023 is the Extra Benefits Card, a preloaded debit card that has a quarterly allowance members can apply toward over-the-counter items and support services, including health foods, utilities and transportation. Eligible members can also access Aetna's Medicare Payment Card, which includes a quarterly allowance toward out-of-pocket costs for in-network care, OTC wellness items or both.
“We know our members want to feel confident that their Medicare plans offer the coverage they need, when and where they want it—and at a price they can afford,” said Christopher Ciano, president of Aetna Medicare, in the release. “So, for 2023 we expanded some popular benefits and added new ones to empower members to get important preventive care, stay healthy and keep doing the things they enjoy most.”
Cigna has its sights on significant expansion in MA and has invested in doubling its network over the past two years, including a notable increase in the number of included specialists. The insurer said it will offer plans in 581 counties across 28 states, upping its geographic footprint for MA by 22%.
Cigna said it will bring its MA plans to New York and Kentucky for the first time, and new metropolitan areas in its footprint for 2023 include Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and New York City. The company offers at least one plan with a $0 premium in each market, and it said most members will pay the same or reduced premiums compared to 2022.
Among its new and enhanced benefits for 2023, Cigna will offer a flex card called Healthy Today, which bundles a number of additional benefits and incentives for convenience. Depending on the member's plan, the card could be loaded with up to $200 in incentives for wellness activities like volunteering as well as funds toward over-the-counter items, fitness items or groceries. Cigna said it also expanding a companionship program as well as supports for caregivers.
“By leveraging the full capabilities of our enterprise, Cigna is able to offer Medicare Advantage customers a range of affordable, personalized plans,” said Aparna Abburi, president of Medicare and CareAllies at Cigna. “We take a thoughtful and targeted approach to our Medicare Advantage footprint—adding new markets where we have strong provider partnerships that will ensure our customers get quality care. Our priority is providing our customers with plans that meet their needs, including lifestyle, health and budget.”
Elevance Health (Anthem)
Elevance Health, formerly Anthem, is adding 210 new counties to its MA footprint for 2023, which will reach an additional 6.7 million Medicare beneficiaries, the insurer said. The company offers MA plans across 24 states and Puerto Rico.
Across its affiliates, Elevance Health will reach nearly 33 million Medicare eligibles nationwide, including with plans that offer $0 premiums and benefits to target the social determinants of health, the company said. Eligible members can access a single prepaid benefits card that can be loaded with spending amounts for different benefits, including over-the-counter products, healthy food, utilities and bills and out-of-pocket costs related to vision, dental and hearing benefits.
In four states—Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio and Georgia—members can choose to enroll in a plan co-branded with the grocery chain Kroger and including a monthly benefit allowance card that can be used at 200 stores for over-the-counter products, groceries and wellness items. Eligible members can also connect with a Kroger dietician for nutrition assessments and home delivery of up to 12 boxes of pantry staples.
“With inflation higher than it’s been in decades, seniors and other Medicare eligible individuals are searching for a benefits plan that provides the greatest value," said Elena McFann, president of Medicare at Elevance Health, in a statement. "Three-quarters of our affiliated health plans for 2023 have a zero-dollar premium and no co-pay for visits to a primary care physician. In addition to their affordability, our Medicare Advantage plans take a holistic view of health and contain extra benefits designed to enhance our members’ quality of life.”
Want to hear more from George Renaudin, Christopher Ciano, Elena McFann and other Medicare Advantage experts? Register for the Fierce Health Payer Summit: Spotlight on Medicare Advantage, airing virtually later this month. (It's free!)