Medicare Advantage Enrollment Up by 7.3%, Expected To Grow More
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is up by 7.3% from this time last year, and more beneficiaries are expected to sign up when the program's annual open enrollment period begins next month, Modern Healthcare reports.
CMS data show that about 17.7 million people are enrolled in an MA plan, up from nearly 16.5 million individuals at the same time last year. According to Modern Healthcare, many individuals have been enrolling in MA plans because of their benefits, such as coverage for hearing aids with low- or no-cost sharing, and low premiums.
Medicare's annual open enrollment period will begin on Oct. 15 and end on Dec. 7.
Large, Investor-Owned Health Plans Have Most MA Beneficiaries
Large, investor-owned insurers continue to enroll the most MA beneficiaries. For example:
- UnitedHealth Group leads the MA market with 3.48 million beneficiaries as of this month, boasting an 8.6% increase in beneficiaries from the same period last year;
- Humana had 3.23 million MA beneficiaries as of this month, representing an 11.4% increase over the same time last year; and
- Aetna had 1.27 million MA beneficiaries as of this month.
In addition, some not-for-profit health plans also gained many new beneficiaries over the past year, including:
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, part of Kaiser Permanente, which reached 1.33 million beneficiaries, representing a 6.4% increase over last year; and
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, which reached 178,000 beneficiaries, representing a 23% increase over last year.
At the same time, multiple MA insurers over the past year have had to reduce benefits, increase premiums or completely eliminate products, citing federal rate cuts and high costs of care. In addition, some insurers over the past year have lost several thousand members, including:
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina; and
- Highmark Health.
Sundar Subramanian, a health care partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers' consulting business Strategy&, said, "I think there will be an uptick in Medicare Advantage enrollment," adding, "And I think the larger, higher-quality plans will gain more in membership." Subramanian continued, "Plans that have learned to survive and figure out how they can serve consumers with more targeted benefit designs, narrower network of providers and better quality ... are in a tremendous position," adding, "They are set to grow as opposed to the other plans that did not make investments two to three years ago" (Herman, Modern Healthcare, 9/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.