The world of Medicare can often seem like a maze. It’s complicated, involving the government and private insurance companies. Both institutions are notoriously hard to navigate and subject to sudden changes.
Fortunately, this year’s changes are good. HealthCare.com is here to help light your way through upcoming lower rate changes to Medicare Advantage in 2019.
Medicare Advantage Rates Are Going Down!
Medicare Advantage premiums are expected to decrease from an average monthly cost of $29.81 to $28.00, or about 6 percent less. This will bring Medicare Advantage premiums to the lowest they have been in the past three years.
Averages can sometimes be deceiving, but in this case, 83 percent of enrollees should have the same or lower premium than they did last year. In addition, 46 percent of enrollees will have a premium of $0.
But what about the premiums for Medicare Part D? Good news there as well – for the second year in a row, they are decreasing. Standard premiums will now cost $32.50 per month vs. 2018’s $33.59 per month.
In addition, CMS reports that there will be 600 new plans added this year, an increase from about 3,100 available plans to 3,700. More than 91 percent of Medicare enrollees will have access to 10 or more Medicare Advantage plans, up from 86 percent in 2018.
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What is Medicare Advantage?
As you may know, the main difference between Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and Medicare Advantage (Part C) is that Original Medicare is run entirely by the government, while Medicare Advantage is a private insurance replacement.
Medicare Advantage enrollees will pay the premium for Medicare Part B (increasing to $135.50 per month in 2019), plus additional Medicare Advantage premiums. Medicare Advantage premiums are not income-based, unlike Part B premiums.
Understanding the New Medicare Advantage Benefits
The decrease in premiums isn’t the only positive Part C change in 2019. Medicare Advantage enrollees will now be eligible for supplemental benefits aimed at managing chronic disease and decreasing hospital visits.
Benefits such as home aides, adult day care programs, home safety devices, transportation, housecalls, allowances for non-prescription care products, and more will be added to the list of possible benefits enrollees can receive. The availability of things like home modifications can also allow elderly patients to live in their home longer before moving to a costly end-of-life care facility. This list will likely grow even more next year with the incorporation of the CHRONIC Care Act into the 2020 budget.
Best of all, all of these benefits are coming despite a decrease in monthly premiums.
Insurance companies are competing with each other to recruit you via these preventative measures. In the long run, insurers predict they will end up saving money by reducing costly injuries, surgeries, and hospital stays while increasing your quality of life.
Reasons Behind Low 2019 Medicare Advantage Prices
So why all these changes? Firstly, CMS and Congress are finally responding to pressures from medical professionals about social determinants of health. In other words, the line between what is medically necessary and what is necessary to maintain health is not always as distinct as was thought in the past, so offering supplemental benefits can actually save money in the long run.
Secondly, CMS attributes the drop in Part D premiums to the pressure the federal government has put on prescription drug manufacturers to provide more options for patients and more competition within the marketplace.
Finally, Medicare Advantage simply has more funding in 2019. The federal government has increased payments to providers by 3.4 percent.
Where Are Affordable 2019 Medicare Advantage Plans Available?
A major issue with Medicare Advantage is availability of plans. However, CMS predicts that enrollment will increase 11.5 percent in 2019, from 20.2 million to 22.6 million.It's important to regularly check which new Medicare Advantage plans appear in your area. Click To Tweet
Applicants may face limited options in certain areas – whether rural or urban – as different states require different benefits or eligibility requirements. 273 plans out of 3700 will offer at least one supplemental benefit, giving 7 percent of enrollees, about 1.5 million people, access to these extra home healthcare benefits.
Medicare Open Enrollment Ends in December: Obviously, with declining rates and additional benefits, Medicare Advantage is becoming a more and more appealing offer. So how can you change to a new Medicare Advantage plan?
You can find more information on the 2018-2019 Medicare Annual Election Period here. We don’t sell plans ourselves, so a quick call to our support line can help you get an unbiased, accurate view of what plans are right for you.