Milliman: Home benefits surge in popularity among Medicare Advantage plans

More Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are offering supplemental benefits aimed at in-home services for 2023 as care continues to shift outside of healthcare facilities, a new report said. 

A report (PDF), released Thursday from consulting firm Milliman and conducted on behalf of the Better Medicare Alliance, detailed how many plans expanded supplemental benefits for 2023.

“As seniors contend with rising household costs, their ability to access more benefits that are built into the affordable cost of their Medicare Advantage plan is welcome news,” said Mary Beth Donahue, president and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance, in a statement.

Back in 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded the flexibility for plans to offer certain supplemental benefits. It also enabled plans to offer different cost-sharing options to certain populations of beneficiaries. 

Milliman looked at benefit data made available from CMS that explored the prevalence of such plans from 2019 through 2023. 

It showed that, overall, the number of MA plans that offered at least one of five expanded supplemental benefits increased from 824 in 2022 to 1,111 in 2023, a 35% jump. The number of plans that offered supplemental benefits have continued to increase since they were first implemented in 2020, when 351 plans offered them. 

This year, the most popular supplemental benefit among plans was in-home support services, with 794 plans offering them. The second most popular was 259 that offered support for enrollee caregivers. 

“The prevalence of support for caregivers of enrollees almost tripled from 2021 to 2023, surpassing the prevalence of home-based palliative care and therapeutic massage, both of which had small increases from 2022 and 2023,” the report said.

The increase in plans offering such benefits comes amid the latest open enrollment period for MA that ends Dec. 7. The program is expected to surpass total enrollment in Medicare this year. 

A recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated the average senior has 43 plans to choose from this open enrollment, more than double the 20 plans offered on average in 2018. Insurers are offering nearly 4,000 plans for 2023, the foundation's analysis said.

The emphasis on in-home services comes as insurers are increasing their investments in home care, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic shifted more care to the home setting.

Some insurers have recently expanded home care investments. Late last month, for instance, Cigna reached a deal with health tech company Heal to offer in-home primary care for the insurer’s MA customers.