Even if you don’t watch the news on a regular basis, you’ve probably heard rumblings recently about the Medicare open enrollment period. It’s the time when qualified seniors can sign up for a new Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, switch from original Medicare to MA or select a new or different Medicare prescription drug plan. The “Annual Election Period” runs from October 15-December 7, although the plans aren’t effective until January 1, 2020.
Though this annual enrollment period isn’t new, there are some noticeable changes to premiums for some MA plans along with additional services being offered by health insurance companies. First, let’s examine some of the numbers that explain a few of these changes and recent trends:
- MA premiums are expected to decline on average 23 percent from 2018.
- More than 24 million people with Medicare are expected to enroll in an MA plan for 2020.
- There will be approximately 1,200 more Medicare Advantage plans operating in 2020 than in 2018.
- The average number of plans per county will rise from 33 plans to 39 between 2019 and 2020.
- There has been a 49 percent increase in MA plans per county in the United States since 2017.
- More than 60 million seniors are expected to switch or renew their Medicare coverage this open enrollment period.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes to 2020 MA plans is the additional benefits many health insurance companies are adding to some of their offerings. These supplemental services will be included in about 250 plans and impact a little over one million enrollees. Here are a few items in the category:
- In-home meals
- Adult daycare services
- Caregiver support
- Non-medical transportation
- Pain management
- Nutrition programs
- Home modifications (i.e. grab bars, wheelchair ramps, safety devices)
- Virtual services
- Service animal support
Some health plans started offering these services last year. Part of this is due to the CHRONIC Act, which was passed by Congress to enable insurance companies to offer non-medical services to enrollees who have chronic illnesses. The idea behind this law is to keep this population out of the hospital by providing them with specialized care at home.
Plan Finder Tool
Another new resource for Medicare enrollees in 2020 is the Plan Finder, a tool that assists in comparing coverage options and finding out more details about specific plans. This resource can be utilized to obtain a list of each plan, what’s included in it and what the premium is.
To help you find out more about some of the changes some of the major health plans are introducing for MA in 2020, we’ve compiled a summary that outlines highlights of each:
Anthem introduced some supplemental services in select 2019 MA plans but will be expanding them to a total of 16 states for 2020. Wellness services such as nutritional and in-home support, respite care, adult daycare, pain management, exercise programs, transportation, massage therapy, service animal support and pest control will be available to enrollees of one of its two basic benefit packages.
Cigna’s biggest changes for 2020 center on the launch of its new MA PPO plans, which will be available in 43 counties throughout Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. This is in addition to its HMO model, which is open to residents of some counties in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina and South Carolina. With these additions, the company will be expanding its offerings to include 80 counties in 17 different states.
Newer supplemental services from Cigna focus on social determinants of health. Following is a sampling of these services:
- An air conditioner allowance in some Texas plans.
- A fall prevention program in some Mississippi and Kansas plans.
- An adult day care allowance in New Jersey plans.
- An acupuncture allowance on all PPO plans and Colorado HMO plans.
- A patient attendant to medical appointments in some Pennsylvania and Maryland plans.
- An expanded transportation benefit, including trips to places of worship, grocery stores, etc., in some Arizona and Pennsylvania plans.
One of the more diverse new offerings for MA enrollees from this health insurance company is the availability of virtual visits with providers. Plan members can use their smartphone, computer or tablet to contact physicians and other qualified health professionals to inquire about non-serious health issues. This technology can even be employed for behavioral health support.
UnitedHealthcare is expected to offer over 100 new MA plans in 2020 in 100 additional counties. Its Renew Active fitness program will be available to enrollees in 36 states and includes a personalized fitness plan and an online brain health program from AARP. The company also announced a partnership with Walgreens to lower prescription drug costs for its members.
Like Cigna, many of Humana’s new supplemental services focus on social determinants of health. A few highlights include fitness program memberships, rides to medical appointments and the gym, an allowance for over-the-counter personal care items, home support and resources for caregivers. All of the company’s MA plans will also offer a virtual primary care visit.
For more information, visit CMS.gov on Medicare Advantage and Part D in your state in 2020.