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October 2, 2018

MA premiums expected to drop by 6% in 2019, CMS says

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    CMS on Friday announced that it expects 2019 Medicare Advantage (MA) premiums will be about 6% lower than they were in 2018—declining to an average of $28.

    According to Modern Healthcare, the anticipated premiums will be the lowest they have been in the past three years.

    Access the C-Suite cheat sheet on Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

    Medicare's open enrollment period for 2019 health and drug plans is scheduled to begin Oct. 15 and end Dec. 7. 

    CMS says MA premiums will be lower and enrollment will be higher in 2019

    CMS estimated that about 83% of MA enrollees who will remain in their current plans in 2019 will pay the same or lower premiums for those plans. About 46% of MA enrollees who will remain in their current plans will not have to pay a premium, CMS said.

    CMS also said MA in 2019 will offer 600 more health plan options when compared with 2018. CMS said the number of MA plans available for U.S. residents to choose from will increase from about 3,100 for the 2018 coverage year to 3,700 for the 2019 coverage year. More than 91% of Medicare beneficiaries will have access to 10 or more MA plans for 2019, compared with about 86% of Medicare beneficiaries for 2018. Overall, about 99% of Medicare beneficiaries will have access to an MA plan for the 2019 coverage year, CMS said.

    CMS also noted new flexibilities on health-related supplemental benefits that will be available for the first time for the 2019 coverage year. According to CMS, about 270 MA plans will offer about 1.5 million MA beneficiaries coverage for:

    • Adult day care service;
    • Caregiver support services;
    • Home-based palliative care;
    • In-home support service;
    • Reduced cost-sharing for beneficiaries with conditions such as congestive heart failure and diabetes; and
    • Therapeutic massages.

     CMS also predicted that more MA beneficiaries will have access to coverage for dental and hearing services, meals, nursing hotlines, over-the-counter items, and transportation for medical services in 2019 when compared with 2018.

    CMS projected that enrollment in MA plans will increase to 22.6 million in 2019—an 11.5% increase from 20.2 million MA beneficiaries in 2018.


    HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, "Medicare Part D and [MA] demonstrate the successes possible when we harness consumer choice and private-sector innovation to improve care and lower cost." Azar added, "The significant steps taken to maximize competition among [MA] plans and support and empower Medicare beneficiaries are a crucial piece of allowing patients to define and drive value, which the Trump Administration has made a priority."

    CMS Administrator Seema Verma said, "The steps that the [administration] has taken to improve and drive competition in [MA] means more savings, more benefits, and lower costs for seniors" (Dickson, Modern Healthcare, 9/28; Beaton, HealthPayerIntelligence News, 9/28; Baxter, Health Exec, 9/28; Morse, Healthcare Finance News, 9/28; CMS release, 9/28).

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