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MA Premiums to Decline as Enrollment Is Expected to Continue Climbing in 2020

Laura Joszt
As 2020 Medicare Advantage (MA) premiums will decline 14.0% from 2019, beneficiaries will have access to greater benefits, which has contributed to enrollment continuing to grow year over year, according to CMS.
In 2020, Medicare Advantage (MA) premiums will decline 14.0% from 2019, with the average monthly premium at its lowest level in the last 13 years, CMS announced Tuesday. The agency estimated that the average monthly MA plan premium in 2020 will be $23.00.

As the premium declines, the number of plan choices is increasing: In 2020 there will be 1200 more MA plans operating than in 2018, and the average number of plan choices per county will be 39 plans in 2020, up from 33 in 2019.

“President Trump has promised American patients a system with affordable, personalized healthcare, a system that puts you in control, provides peace of mind, and treats you like a human being, not a number,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “That is what CMS has been delivering with its improvements to Medicare Advantage: lower costs, more options, and benefits tailored to patients’ needs. This proven record of success—decreasing premiums in both Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D—contrasts with proposals for a total government takeover of healthcare, which would destroy options such as Medicare Advantage that seniors increasingly choose.”

During her speech at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)’s 2019 National Conference on Medicare, CMS Administrator Seema Verma attributed the agency’s success in bringing down premiums to Trump administration policies that have increased competition among MA plans. In addition, she highlighted the new benefits that MA beneficiaries will receive, such as telehealth benefits for primary care and mental health care, plan flexibility around supplemental benefits to address social determinants of health, and the ability of plans to tailor benefits to chronically ill patients, such as pest control for patients with asthma and healthy food for those with heart disease.

She noted that CMS expects to see a 10% increase in MA enrollment, which would bring the total number of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in MA to more than 24 million.

At the end of July, CMS also announced that the average monthly Part D premium would decline 13.5%, from $34.70 in 2017 to $30.00 in 2020. Combined decreases in Part D and MA premiums in the last 3 years have saved taxpayers nearly $6 billion through lower Medicare premium subsidies, according to CMS.

“President Trump’s policies are working, putting dollars back into the pockets of our beneficiaries and saving taxpayers billions,” Verma said at AHIP. “It is a testament to what can happen when government gets out of the way and allows private market competition to flourish.”

During her speech, Verma also discussed the benefits of a free market system that “spurs…innovation and adaptation.” The administration is seeking to create informed consumers through increased access to healthcare prices and quality information. This increased transparency is being coupled with a more targeted set of quality measures.

“We’ve heard from those who want to protect the broken status quo,” Verma said. “They say price transparency will increase costs. That’s nonsense. Economics 101 teaches us that prices are an essential signal for markets to deliver better quality at a lower price.”

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