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Medicare Advantage Plans Growing, Small Premium Increases for 2015

Seniors will see wide range of Medicare health, drug plans when enrollment opens October 15, says CMS

Analysis of Medicare health, drug plans for 2015 finds most and least expensive. Click to report by HealthPocket.

September 19, 2014 - More people with Medicare will have access to higher quality Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, and for the fifth straight year, enrollment is projected to increase to a new all-time high, while premiums remain “affordable,” according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Open enrollment begins October 15.

The average MA premium submitted by health plans for 2015 would increase by $2.94 next year, to $33.90 per month.  However, CMS estimates the actual 2015 MA average premium will increase by only $1.30, as more beneficiaries elect to enroll in lower cost plans. The vast majority of MA enrollees will face little or no premium increase for next year with 61 percent of beneficiaries not seeing any premium increase at all.

“Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is now at an all-time high, and premiums have fallen,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “Seniors and people with disabilities are benefiting from a transparent and competitive marketplace for Medicare health and drug plans.”

More MA plans will offer supplemental benefits that seniors traditionally value, such as dental and vision benefits.  

Access to the MA program remains strong, says CMS, with 99 percent of beneficiaries having access to a plan. Between 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was enacted and 2015, enrollment in MA plans is expected to increase 42 percent and premiums will have decreased by 6 percent.

CMS says the MA quality continues to improve as approximately 40 percent of MA contracts will receive four or more stars for 2015, an increase of around 6 percent from 2014.

About 60 percent of MA enrollees are currently enrolled in plans with four or more stars for 2015, an increase of approximately 31 percent compared to the percentage in four or five star plans based on 2012 ratings. CMS calculates star ratings from 1 to 5 (with 5 being the best) based on quality and performance for Medicare health and drug plans to help beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers compare plans.

Earlier this year, CMS announced that the average estimated basic Medicare prescription drug plan premium in 2014 is projected to be $32 per month. Because of the Affordable Care Act, people with Medicare are seeing reduced costs through both savings on covered brand-name and generic drugs and having access to certain preventive services at no cost sharing.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than 8.3 million people with Medicare have saved over $12 billion on prescription drugs through July 2014, an average of $1,443 per beneficiary. The Affordable Care Act closes the “donut hole” over time. In addition, in 2014 through July, an estimated 18.6 million people with traditional Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, and more than 2.6 million took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit.  

The Annual Open Enrollment period for Medicare health and drug plans begin on October 15, and ends December 7.  

Each year, plan costs and covered benefits can change. Medicare beneficiaries should look at their Medicare coverage choices and decide what options best meet their needs. Beneficiaries who need assistance can visit, call 1-800-MEDICARE, or contact their State health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).  

>> More information on Medicare Open Enrollment and to compare benefits and prices of 2015 Medicare health and drug plans.  

>> For state-by-state information on discounts in the donut hole, pdf  

>> For state-by-state information on utilization of preventive services at no cost sharing to beneficiaries in Medicare.



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