Medicare Advantage Plans Grow in Number, Quality Keeps Improving

The number of Medicare Advantage plans is increasing, as is the quality of care and services that Advantage beneficiaries receive, according to a new report.

Medicare Advantage plans are at the forefront when it comes to providing value-based care, with beneficiaries having access to integrated health care plans that continue to innovate, according to the “State of Medicare Advantage” report by the Better Medicare Alliance.

These plans offer affordability, simplicity and enhanced benefits with a focus on primary care centered on the patient, early intervention, and health care coordination. All of these aspects help improve the health and well-being of millions of beneficiaries, showing why Medicare Advantage, rather than traditional fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare, is the future of senior health coverage.

Traditional Medicare reimburses health services on the basis of the volume of services provided. Medicare Advantage, on the other hand, rewards beneficiaries and health care providers based on the value of the health care outcomes. This model is essential for the realization of better outcomes, as well as more cost savings.

Overall, the case for signing up for Medicare Advantage continues strengthening. The report also found that:

  • There are an average of 39 Medicare Advantage plan choices per county in 2020. More than 99% of Medicare beneficiaries have access to at least one of these plans. This marks a 49% increase in the number of available plans to qualified beneficiaries since 2017.
  • This year, 94% of individuals enrolled in Medicare Advantage can access at least one zero-dollar premium drug plan, with 90% of the plans including drug coverage. Currently, 46% of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are enrolled in a zero-dollar premium plan.
  • Medicare Advantage beneficiaries save $1,598 more in average annual out-of-pocket costs compared to traditional FFS Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Beneficiaries of traditional Medicare spend about 33% more on prescription medication and eight times as much ($126 compared to $15) for out-of-pocket costs from inpatient facility stays compared to Medicare Advantage enrollees.
  • The average monthly premium for Medicare Advantage in 2020 dropped $3.87 from the year prior. Since 2017, the average monthly premium has decreased by 27.9%.

Other positives

Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of Medicare Advantage plans offering extra benefits, including vision, hearing and dental benefits. These are notably absent in normal FFS Medicare coverage.

In fact, more than 80% of Medicare Advantage plans provide at least a vision, dental, hearing or wellness benefit, with over half of plans offering these four benefits.

The takeaway

The cost-effectiveness of Medicare Advantage health insurance means that Medicare has achieved payment parity, spending about the same per beneficiary on average for both Medicare models. There is improved cost control with Medicare Advantage due to its value-based payment model adopted by providers. Interestingly, the cost-efficiency of Medicare Advantage has shown to have a positive influence on traditional FFS Medicare. Due to positive spillover, Medicare Advantage has improved the quality of outcomes as well as decreased costs for FFS Medicare beneficiaries. Overall though, Medicare Advantage health insurance improves the quality and value of health care and coverage. This helps reduce the health care cost burden for seniors and individuals with disabilities and chronic illness. It also features additional benefits that traditional FFS Medicare doesn’t offer.

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