Monthly premiums for Medicare Advantage plans are expected to decrease again in 2021, as enrollment in the privatized version of traditional Medicare climbs.
CMS said Thursday evening that average Advantage premiums will fall about 11% to an estimated $21 from $23.63 this year. Only about two-thirds of Advantage enrollees pay a premium for the coverage, however, and most members still pay a Medicare Part B premium, which was $144.60 this year.
The agency also said it expects enrollment in the program, also known as Medicare Part C, to grow about 10% to 26.9 million in 2021, a rate that's on par with growth in 2020. That means more than four in 10 Medicare beneficiaries will receive coverage through Advantage plans.
The Trump administration has favored Medicare Advantage, introducing new flexibilities to the program that allows health insurers to provide extra benefits, such as meals and transportation, that address patients' social and environment needs. Insurers can also tailor benefits or reduce cost sharing to address patients' chronic illnesses.
Insurers love the program because it's lucrative and the customer base continues to grow as older Americans turns age 65 and choose managed care. New insurers continue to enter or expand in the Advantage market each year.
CMS said Advantage members will have more plan choices next year. There will be 4,800 plans in the Medicare Advantage market, with an average of 47 plans per county. That's up from 39 plans this year. People with end-stage kidney disease will also be able to enroll in the program for the first time in 2021.
Medicare Advantage open enrollment starts Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7 for coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2021.