CMS (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) released a statement earlier this fall that said the average monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage plan in 2021 will be the lowest it’s been in 14 years (since 2007!)
In fact, the average Medicare Advantage (MA) premium will see a decrease of 34.2% from 2017, while plan choice and benefits continue to expand. In some states like Alabama, Nevada, and Kentucky, the average premium decrease since 2017 will be closer to 50%.
Medicare Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) will also have low premiums in 2021, with standard plans averaging around $30.50 a month. This marks a 12% decrease in PDP premiums since 2017.
Average star ratings increasing
The average star ratings for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans in 2021 are set to increase significantly. About 77% of Medicare Advantage enrollees will have a plan with 4 or more stars, and 98% of those in a standalone PDP plan will have a rating of more than 3.5 stars.
There will also be more plans with a 5-star rating than were available in 2020, including UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, and Anthem BCBS. Even the lowest-rated plans have improved to at least 2.5 stars.
CMS uses this Medicare star rating system for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans to determine whether or not a plan is doing its job, and whether or not it can stay on the market. Plans that consistently receive poor ratings (one or two stars) will eventually be removed from the market.
Plans are given a star rating between one and five, with one being “poor” and five being “excellent.”
Medicare Advantage plans are rated on the following factors:
How often members receive treatment for long-term conditions
Current member satisfaction
Plan performance in comparison to the previous year
Customer service quality
Part D plans are rated on the following:
Number of member issues with the plan
How many people left over one year
Patient safety while using prescriptions in the plan
Accuracy of pricing
Quality of care
Customer service quality
More and more Medicare Advantage and Part D plan carriers are entering the market every year, meaning there is more competition. More competition means that more plans are trying to be the most valuable to be able to compete. That’s why even though costs may be going down, plan ratings are still increasing.
If you plan on meeting with a licensed agent during this year’s Annual Enrollment Period, be sure to ask about four and five-star plans in your area!
Remind me: What is Medicare Advantage?
You can enroll in Medicare Advantage as an addition to your Original Medicare coverage. Since Medicare Advantage plans are owned and operated by private insurance companies and are not the same as the government Medicare program, the coverage is a bit different.
Medicare Advantage plans are able to cover things that Original Medicare is not, such as fitness programs, dental, vision, and prescription drugs.
Medicare Advantage plans might come with copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles, but the average premium for 2021 is expected to be $21/month.
If you can afford to add a Medicare Advantage premium, the benefits may save you from thousands of dollars in healthcare costs later on.
Expanded benefits for 2021
Earlier this year, CMS released the 2021 benefit and cost sharing information on Medicare.gov. In large part due to the coronavirus pandemic, they are offering expanded benefits in several key areas, and many health care providers are taking advantage of this flexibility.
There will be over 4,800 Medicare Advantage plans in 2021 for enrollees to choose from, a 76.6% increase since 2017. The number of MA plans per country is also growing in the new calendar year.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 94% of all MA plans will provide added telehealth benefits. The current health crisis also drove CMS to develop the Part D Savings Model, which sets a $35 monthly copay rate for insulin. Over 1,750 MA and PDP plans are participating in this new model in 2021.Many health plans are also expanding their benefits for enrollees with chronic conditions. About 500 Medicare Advantage plans will feature either supplemental benefits or lower copays to those with specific chronic diseases or other conditions.
$0 Premiums and Special Needs Plans
Some people may even be eligible for a $0 premium Medicare Advantage plan. Others still may be eligible for low-cost Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans.
CSNPs are Chronic Special Needs Plans and are for people who have certain chronic conditions and need additional coverage. ISNPs are Institutional Special Needs Plans and are for people who have been living in an institution such as an inpatient medical facility for 90 days or more. DSNPs are Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans and are for people who are dual-eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.
How to Get a Low-Cost, Five-Star Medicare Advantage Plan in 2020
Our licensed agents across the nation are contracted and certified to sell a number of Medicare Advantage plans. An agent can sit down with you and show you all of the top-rated plans available in your area and help you select which one is best for you.
To get in touch with a licensed agent, call 844-431-1832 or click here.
2020 Medicare Changes & Trump’s Executive Order
Every year, CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) reserves the right to make changes to the Medicare program. Rules and regulations around enrollment periods, penalty fees, marketing, and plan benefits are released in late summer and early fall for the following year. Costs can rise, and brand new plans can enter or leave the market.
Medicare is confusing as it is. When you add these yearly changes into the mix, choosing the right plan can be stressful. Our goal is to make all of this less stressful for you. Our website is a great educational tool, and our licensed agents can provide free assistance!
Alex Azar, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, said that Trump told HHS to take “specific, significant steps” towards improving Medicare funding and improving healthcare for American seniors. These steps include lowering Medicare Advantage costs, allowing savings accounts, and improving access to new medical technology. It also leaves room for more plan options, more telehealth, more wellness benefits, and a stronger financial model.
In his post-executive order speech given in Florida yesterday morning, Trump stated, “In my campaign for president, I made you a sacred pledge that I would strengthen, protect and defend Medicare for all of our senior citizens.” That was the intent of the executive order.
Is Medicare Going Up in 2020?
New 2020 Medicare premiums and costs for 2020 have not been released yet. The new numbers are usually released in early fall of the year prior, so we are expecting to see them over the coming months. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that 2020 Medicare Part B premiums are likely to increase by $8.80/month to a total of $144.30, but this is not final.
We will continue to update this post with new 2020 costs as they are released. Thank you for your patience!
2020 Medigap Changes
Just like the Original Medicare program, private plans like Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplements, and standalone benefit plans can change every year.
Plan availability may not be the same for everyone. Medigap eligibility, in particular, can depend on your age when you enroll, preexisting conditions, and where you live. Plans can be different not only in every state but also in every county and zip code.
Starting in 2020, you will no longer be able to purchase Medigap Plan F or Medigap Plan C. Plan F was one of the most popular plans, and Plan C was fairly similar. The plans are going away because they include coverage for the Part B deductible (only $185 in 2019).
You might here plans C and F referred to as “first-dollar” plans because they virtually eliminate out-of-pocket costs. CMS decided that taking away the Part B deductible coverage was a smart move to discourage people from overusing their primary physician offices and costing the Medicare program a lot of money for unnecessary doctor’s visits.
If you already have Medigap Plan F or Medigap Plan C, you can be grandfathered in. That means that you will not lose your coverage in 2020. However, if you leave your Plan F or Plan C in favor of a different Medigap plan, you won’t be able to re-enroll in F or C.
Will Plan F Premiums Rise After 2020?
As Plan F sees less and less enrollees, Plan F premiums will likely begin to rise. We can’t say this for sure and we will certainly have to wait and see what happens, but generally less enrollees means higher costs for the companies, resulting in higher premiums.
Will There be a High Deductible Plan G in 2020?
Since people will not be able to purchase Plan F or Plan C in 2020, CMS did want there to be another option with similar benefits. Plan G was already that option, given that the only difference is that Plan G does not cover the Part B deductible.
The other difference is that previously, Plan G was not offered with a high-deductible. If you typically have low medical costs, you may prefer a high-deductible option. Having a high deductible often means that your premiums will be lower. This way, you don’t have to pay as much until you start experiencing health concerns. The high deductible Plan G option can replace the high deductible F option.
Donut Hole Closing in 2020
In addition to all of these plan changes, the infamous “Donut Hole” will be effectively closing in 2020. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 closed the coverage gap for brand-name drugs in 2019, and the generic drug coverage gap will be eliminated in 2020. This basically means that, if you have a Medicare Part D plan, you will only be responsible for 25% of your covered prescription drug costs instead of 44%.
2020 Medicare Advantage Changes
There may be more Medicare Advantage plan changes to come in 2020, but we wanted to make sure you had heard about the changes from last year.
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 in 2019 and 2020 compared to 2018.
2020Medicare Advantage Cost Changes and 2020 Premiums
In September of 2018, CMS announced that on average, Medicare Advantage 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 estimated that 83% of beneficiaries would 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.
2020 cost changes for Part A and B premiums and deductibles have not officially been released yet but are not expected to increase by very much. We will continue to monitor this information and will update as soon as the cost changes are officially announced.
New Medicare Benefits 2020
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.
Some plans in 2020* are really going above and beyond, offering benefits like new air conditioners and pest control!
*These benefits are not included in all MA plans. Your agent may be able to 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.
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).
Future of Medicare Advantage 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!
Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan in 2020
Are you interested in getting coverage beyond Original Medicare? Along with the new benefits, many Medicare Advantage 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.
The Annual Enrollment Period runs from October 15 through December 7. Start looking over your plan benefits now so that you’re ready to enroll before December 7!
Ready to learn more? Call us at 844-431-1832 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 was last updated on October 4, 2019.