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
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
www.medicare.gov, call 1-800-MEDICARE, or contact their State
health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
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