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What's changing with Medicare Advantage plans in 2016

Relatively few plans are entering or exiting the Medicare Advantage market, analysis finds

Medicare Advantage plan choices are changing in 2016, and these changes include plan availability, premium costs, drug price deductibles and satisfaction ratings, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The report, which analyzed publicly available data for the Medicare Advantage plans offered in 2016, revealed that 2,001 Medicare Advantage plans will be available nationwide for individual enrollment in 2016, which is 56 more than were available in 2015. Of the 2,001 plans available in 2016, 203 of them will be exiting the marketplace, and there will be 259 new plans. However, even though there are a high number of plans offered, the average beneficiary will choose from plans offered by six firms; one-quarter of beneficiaries nationwide will have a choice of plans offered by three or fewer firms in 2016, according to Kaiser.

The report also found that the average Medicare beneficiary will be able to choose from 19 plans in 2016, a number that's been relatively consistent the past few years. As with prior years, the limits on out-of-pocket costs for Part A and B benefits will rise in 2016, with almost 39 percent of plans having limits that are equal to the maximum allowed in 2016, up from 17 percent in 2013.

Almost half of Medicare Advantage plans will impose a deductible for Part D prescription drugs in 2016. The average deductible will also be up about 31 percent, jumping from $90 to $118. And If enrollees in Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage stay in the same plan from 2015 to 2016, their premiums will rise an average of 8 percent, according to the report. 

The average quality star rating for plans will increase in 2016 to 4.5 stars, up from 4.0 stars in 2015. As FierceHealthPayer previously reported, when the data is weighted for enrollment, it shows that nearly 71 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees have plans with four or more stars. Additionally, despite the fact that healthcare prices are increasing, consumers are generally more satisfied with Medicare Advantage than those with commercial plans.

To learn more:
- here's the Kaiser Family Foundation report

Related Articles:
More plans earn high marks in 2016 Medicare Advantage Star Ratings
Study: Consumers more satisfied with Medicare Advantage than commercial plans
Provider-sponsored plans: Financial success may drive growth