On October 12, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced the 2019 Original Medicare premium and deductible increase, but what about Medicare Advantage (MA) plans? Unlike Medicare Part A and B, beneficiaries enrolled in MA plans may see a decrease in their premiums for the upcoming year.
Medicare Advantage Cost Changes and 2019 Premiums
In September, CMS announced that on average, MA premiums will decrease by 6%. This is great for beneficiaries interested in affordable vision, dental, and hearing coverage or even fitness classes like SilverSneakers! CMS estimates that 83% of beneficiaries will have equal or lower premiums for 2019 and 46% will have a $0 premium! Premiums for MA plans have steadily declined, and this is the lowest premium we’ve seen in three years. This is a perfect example of a private and public collaboration that allows beneficiaries to drive and define the value. The 2019 Medicare Advantage changes are a quick glance of what you can expect to continue in the future.[click_to_tweet tweet=”On average, Medicare Advantage premiums are decreasing by about 6% in 2019. Have you picked the best plan for you? https://www.medicareplanfinder.com/blog/medicare-advantage-2019-changes/” quote=”On average, Medicare Advantage premiums are decreasing by about 6% in 2019. Have you picked the best plan for you?”]
Early in 2018, CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) released new rules that allow Medicare Advantage plans to offer a few benefits, like “daily maintenance,” transportation, telehealth, and durable medical equipment.
*These benefits are not included in all MA plans. Your agent can help you find a plan that includes more.
The addition of the “daily maintenance” benefit means that Medicare Advantage plans are now able to offer at-home care items, such as wheelchair ramps and other home modifications. Tied in with that benefit are other forms of durable medical equipment, like hospital beds, oxygen equipment, blood sugar monitors, etc, as well as “non-skilled” services. Non-skilled refers to items that do not require a licensed doctor or nurse, such as aides who can assist with bathing and dressing or homemakers who can help with cleaning and cooking.
Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Coverage
CMS has also added the ability for MA plans to provide non-emergency transportation coverage, a service that several Medicaid plans provide. This benefit (if your plan covers it) will allow you to receive free or low-cost rides to medical appointments and pharmacies. In most cases, you can only qualify for this benefit if you do not have another adequate means of transportation. The appointment that you are requesting a ride to must be for a Medicare-covered service.
Telemedicine and Telehealth
MA plans can now provide coverage for telehealth. That means you can have live video interaction with your doctor through digital clinics like HealthTap, Teladoc, and MDLive. Telehealth can also include health alerts delivered to your phone, health education apps, electronic medical data transfers, mail-order prescriptions, digital appointment scheduling and exam reminders, and more.
Future of MA Plans
According to the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, enrollment has tripled to 19 million beneficiaries since 2003 and continues to grow each year. CMS estimates that MA enrollment will hit an all-time high of 22.6 million beneficiaries in 2019 (an 11.5% increase)!
As enrollment continues to increase, plan selection and variety increase too, with approximately 600 new plans offered in 2019! 99% of seniors and Medicare-eligibles have access to a MA plan – and 91% can choose from 10 or more plan options. Beneficiaries will not only see more plans to choose from, but also new supplemental Medicare benefits!
New Enrollment Period (OEP)
Before 2019, most people were only able to switch into new Medicare Advantage plans during the Annual Enrollment Period in the fall. Now, if you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may be eligible to make a change during OEP. OEP, or the Open Enrollment Period, takes place from January 1 through March 31. During this time, you can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or drop your Medicare Advantage plan in favor of Original Medicare (Part A and Part B only).
Enroll in a Medicare Advantage 2019 Plan
The 2019 Medicare Advantage changes might open up your health care options! Are you interested in getting coverage beyond Original Medicare? Along with the new benefits, many MA plans offer dental, hearing, and vision coverage.
Our agents at Medicare Plan Finder can contract with nearly every carrier in your state! This means that you can enroll in the MA plan that best fits your needs and budget. Ready to learn more? Call us at 833-438-3676 or fill out this form to arrange a no-cost, no-obligation appointment with an agent in your area.
*This post was originally posted on November 8, 2018, and updated on February 26, 2019.