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Medicare Advantage enrollment grows nationwide


Medicare Advantage enrollment increased by 4.6 million (41 percent) during the past year, despite worries that Affordable Care Act-related payment changes would shrink the program's membership, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Almost all states have seen Part C enrollments climb.

Thirty percent of Americans enrolled in Medicare--or 15.7 million beneficiaries--have chosen Part C plans in lieu of traditional fee-for-service coverage as of last March. This represents a 10 percent gain in Medicare Advantage enrollments in one year, the report noted.

Though most Medicare Advantage growth since 2013 has been in the individual market, group plans accounted for 32 percent of enrollment spikes in 2014.

One reason people may be flocking to this program is that almost all privately-offered Part C plans provide at least one added benefit (such as vision, dental or hearing services coverage) that isn't covered by traditional Medicare, according to an April study from HealthPocket. And when payers earn a higher star rating for Medicare Advantage, they tend to enroll beneficiaries in greater numbers, according to results of a January study by Journal of the American Medical Association.

Average monthly premiums for Part C coverage ($35 per month this year) have stayed "relatively stable" since 2012, KFF reported. But average monthly out-of-pocket spending caps are edging upward, which may cause financial hardship for beneficiaries with complex healthcare needs. Specifically, the number of Part C enrollees in plans with out-of-pocket payment limits topping $5000 nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014, climbing from 24 percent to 44 percent this year, according to KFF.   

The costs of Medicare Advantage have been a highly-publicized payer concern. Some insurers still expect Medicare Advantage rates to drop next year, even though the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reversed course last month on proposed Part C rate cuts, as FierceHealthPayer reported.  

For more:
- here's the Kaiser Foundation report

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