Medicare Advantage & Part D In 2018: More Affordability, More Choices

posted by Tom Kornfield & Greg Berger

on October 12, 2017

The annual open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D plans begins on Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. It gives Medicare beneficiaries the time and opportunity to make informed choices about what works best for them.

During open enrollment, seniors can choose among a wide and growing variety of Medicare Advantage and Part D plans for their 2018 coverage. That’s because these plans continue to be broadly available and increasingly affordable. The average Medicare Advantage premium is projected to drop for the third straight year and, for the first time in five years, the average premium for a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan is projected to decrease.

Options are growing…

Ninety-nine percent of Medicare beneficiaries will have access to at least one Medicare Advantage plan in 2018. Over half (54 percent) of Medicare beneficiaries live in a county that has at least two additional Medicare MA-PD plans from 2017. In addition, all beneficiaries will have access to at least one standalone Part D plan.

Source: CMS 2018 MA Landscape Source Files

… While costs are falling

According to CMS, the average Medicare Advantage premium is projected to fall 6 percent to $30 per month in 2018. For Part D, the average monthly premium next year is estimated to be $1.20 less than 2017.

Moreover, most seniors who choose an MA-PD plan don’t pay any premium. And, more than half (52 percent) of Medicare Advantage enrollees are in plans that will continue to have a zero premium next year. Overall in 2018, 84 percent of beneficiaries will have access to a zero-premium MA-PD plan, up from 79 percent in 2017.

Voting with their feet: More beneficiaries choosing Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans offer seniors additional benefits not covered by traditional Medicare, such as dental, hearing, and vision coverage, while at the same time limiting out-of-pocket costs. What’s more, plans frequently offer these benefits in addition to providing prescription drug coverage for no additional premium. Surveys show 90 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees are satisfied with their plan, preventive care coverage, benefits, and choice of provider.

It’s no wonder Medicare Advantage enrollment will likely grow 9 percent next year to 20.4 million seniors, or 34 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries.

As you can see in the numbers above, Medicare Advantage and Part D programs continue to show how public-private partnerships can deliver real value to seniors.

Tom Kornfield is Vice President of Public Programs Policy and Greg Berger is Executive Director of Medicare Policy at AHIP.

Note: All data either is from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or was developed by AHIP based on analyses of the CMS 2018 MA landscape source files and September 2017 Medicare Advantage enrollment files.

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