Slightly more than four in 10 Medicare beneficiaries (42%) are currently in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.
And that percentage could be as high as 50% if beneficiaries enrolled in group plans are included, according to Jae Oh, author of Maximize your Medicare.
Medicare Advantage programs are mostly HMOs and PPOs offered by private insurers that are paid to provide Medicare benefits to enrollees.
According to Oh, cost is one reason why the number of beneficiaries choosing to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans has risen steadily from 5.3 million in 2004 to 26 million today. For instance, most Medicare Advantage plans (89%) include prescription drug coverage, according to Kaiser Family Foundation, And 59% of these plans do not charge any additional premium beyond Medicare’s standard Part B premium.
Coverage is another reason why Medicare Advantage plans are becoming so popular with beneficiaries. In addition to prescription drug coverage, more than 90% of non-group Medicare Advantage plans offer some vision, telehealth, hearing, or dental benefits.
Plus, Medicare Advantage plans cover out-of-pocket expenses that aren’t typically covered in original Medicare, said Oh.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a record 3,834 Medicare Advantage plans will be available in 2022, up from 8% in 2021. In addition, a typical beneficiary will have in 2022 39 plans to choose from in their local market. And some 25% of beneficiaries live in a county where they can choose among 50 Medicare Advantage plans.
Oh describes the phenomenon by drawing a parallel to the plan with soup.
What does Medicare Advantage have in common with minestrone soup? Their recipe changes amongst a lot of different ingredients. Each year, extra benefits and add ons can come out as a part of a Medicare Advantage plan. This doesn’t necessarily change the plan for better or worse, it’s just different. It might be better suited to some people’s personal tastes, but others will simply not like the change.
With all the new possibilities, it has gotten easier to compare plans, and that trend, according to Oh, will not be changing any time soon.