The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced that many Medicare Advantage recipients can expect lower premiums in 2019. Not only that, but they’ll have more options available to them when shopping for plans.
Premium Decreases for Medicare Advantage 2019
CMS outlined details about 2019 Medicare Advantage premiums in a September 2018 announcement. Premiums will be at their lowest level in three years. In 2015, the average Medicare Advantage premium was $32.91. That figure will decrease to $28.00 for 2019.
On average, premiums are going down 6 percent compared to 2018 costs. Medicare Advantage subscribers paid an average of $29.81 per month in 2018. Next year’s premiums will be $1.81 lower than that.
CMS projects that only 17 percent of enrollees who stick with their current plans will see premium increases. For the other 83 percent, costs will stay the same or go down. Of those who keep their 2018 plans for another year, 46 percent will pay a zero-dollar premium.
Medicare Advantage Plan Selection
Officials are not only expecting Medicare Advantage to see its lowest premiums in several years, but they’re also projecting record enrollment. Approximately 22.6 million Americans will sign up for Medicare Advantage in 2019. That’s an increase of 11.5 percent over 2018. CMS expects that 36.7 percent of Americans with Medicare will opt for a Medicare Advantage plan.
Those enrollees will also have more plans to choose from in 2019. Across the country, there were 3,100 Medicare Advantage plans in 2018. That number will go up by 600 for a total of 3,700 plans in 2019. The average county will be covered by 34 Medicare Advantage plans, which is 5 more than last year. Over 90 percent of people should have at least 10 plans available to them.
Furthermore, thanks to new options for supplemental benefits, many plans will cover more services than in the past. Some enrollees will select one of the 270 or so plans that include supplemental care to help them manage their chronic illnesses or conditions. Those with chronic diseases may also be responsible for lower cost sharing amounts. The Trump administration is optimistic that even more plans will include such supplemental benefits in 2020.
2019 Part D Projections
Medicare enrollees will also benefit from lower costs for Part D plans. Premiums for these prescription drug plans fell in 2018 and will drop even more in 2019. The average Part D plan will cost enrollees $32.50 per month, which is $1.09 lower than this year’s premiums.
These plans will be offered throughout the country. Every Medicare enrollee should have the option to purchase Part D coverage in 2019.
Trump Administration on Healthcare Choice and Competition
CMS and the Trump administration credit these positive reports to recent changes that they’ve made to the program. In April 2018, CMS issued a final rule that included adjustments to Part D pricing tiers and an updated interpretation of guidelines for supplemental care. The department claimed that, over the next five years, the changes would result in annual savings of $295 million.
One of the administration’s main goals in Medicare has been to increase choices for enrollees. Bolstering competition in order to drive down prices has been another objective.
The changes to Medicare are indicative of the administration’s overall approach to the healthcare industry. Recent policy changes have been aimed at increasing consumer choice and reducing the influence of the federal government. In the September 2018 CMS announcement, the agency indicated that lower premiums and increased choices for Medicare show evidence of the success of these initiatives.