Medicare Advantage, Part D premiums drop

Medicare Advantage premiums are expected to drop 23% from 2018 levels ahead of the new enrollment period, CMS announced, stating that plan choices, benefits and enrollment have increased.

MA plans, which are offer all the same benefits as traditional Medicare but are distributed through private healthcare insurers and providers, have quickly become more popular among Americans, encompassing about one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries, or more than 24 million people. Premiums were previously estimated to drop 6% in 2019.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar used the announcement as an opportunity to bash universal healthcare proposals. CMS recently blamed rising healthcare insurance premiums in the private market on Obamacare in a blog post.

“That is what CMS has been delivering with its improvements to Medicare Advantage: lower costs, more options, and benefits tailored to patients’ needs,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “This proven record of success—decreasing premiums in both Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D—contrasts with proposals for a total government takeover of healthcare, which would destroy options such as Medicare Advantage that seniors increasingly choose.”

According to the agency, the MA average monthly premium will be the lowest in the last 13 years for those who enroll in MA in 2020. In 2020, the average premium is expected to be $23––14% lower than an average of $26.87 in 2019.

There are about 1,200 more MA plans operating in 2020 compared to 2018, according to CMS. And MA enrollment in 2020 is expected to have risen 30.6% since 2017.

At the same time the agency touted savings and higher enrollment, recent reports have questioned the real savings from MA plans. One recent analysis found that a person who enrolls in an MA plan actually spends more than a person in traditional Medicare.

In addition to lower MA plan premiums, Medicare Part D plans premiums are also expected to drop in 2020.

“The projected average monthly basic Part D premium of $30 in 2020 is the lowest the Part D premium has been since 2013,” CMS stated.

Along with the 2020 rates, CMS noted it recently updated the Medicare Plan Finder to better enable users to comparison shop Medicare, MA and Part D prescription drug plans online. In 2020, the agency is also requiring MA and Part D premiums to be shared as well as the release of Star Ratings in early October. Open enrollment for the 2020 plan year begins Oct. 15, 2019.