Medicare Advantage premiums are expected to decrease by 6% on average in 2019 with membership likely expanding to more than 36% of Medicare beneficiaries, CMS reported Friday.
Average MA premiums have decreased in each of the past three years with 2019's average monthly rate dropping to $28.
CMS said Medicare Part D premiums will also decrease for the second consecutive year in 2019.
As the prediction shows, more payers are interested in MA. Companies spoke positively about their government plans, including MA, during second-quarter earnings calls. In many cases, major payers like Humana and Aetna are offsetting commercial losses through MA expansion. UnitedHealthcare and Humana still dominate the MA market, but Anthem, WellCare Health Plans, Clover Health and Centene all plan to expand their offerings in 2019. Oscar Health expects to start offering MA plans as well in 2020.
And that popularity is not expected to die down, especially as a new rule will allow plans to offer a wider range of benefits, including non-medical options like food assistance and transportation to appointments. That should be a boon for population health-focused programs, which are also growing in use among payers and providers alike.
CMS said enrollment should jump from 20.2 million this year to 22.6 million in 2019, which would be an 11.5% increase. About 3,700 plans will be available, about 600 more than last year. More than 91% of Medicare beneficiaries will have the option of 10 or more MA plans, which is a five percentage point increase over the current year.
More competitors in the MA market means more options for members, and about 99% of Medicare beneficiaries have access to at least one MA plan. More competition also means stable premiums. Almost 83% of MA enrollees who stay in their current plan will pay the same or less in 2019. About 46% will have a zero premium, according to CMS.
MA beneficiaries will also have more options on supplemental benefits. About 270 plans providing coverage for nearly 1.5 million enrollees will expand benefits, including adult day care services, in-home support services and caregiver support services. CMS also trumpeted reduced cost sharing and additional benefits for enrollees with conditions, such as diabetes and congestive heart failure. CMS expects those supplemental benefits will increase in 2020 as more plans add those flexibilities.
Meanwhile, the Medicare Part D prescription drug program's average monthly premium will drop from $33.59 this year to $32.50 in 2019. CMS promoted several changes in the program, including low-cost generic drugs and increased competition among Part D plans and pharmacies.
Medicare open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.