On September 21, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare Advantage premiums will remain stable and more enrollees will have access to higher quality plans while, for a sixth straight year, enrollment is projected to increase to a new all-time high. In addition, CMS released new information that shows that millions of seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare continue to enjoy prescription drug discounts and affordable benefits as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Today’s announcement comes as CMS releases the premiums and costs for Medicare health and drug plans for the 2016 calendar year.
CMS estimates that the average Medicare Advantage premium will decrease by $0.31 next year, from $32.91 on average in 2015 to $32.60 in 2016. The majority of Medicare Advantage enrollees (59 percent) will face no premium increase.
Access to the Medicare Advantage program will remain strong, with 99 percent of beneficiaries having access to a plan. In addition, in 2016, more Medicare Advantage plans will offer supplemental benefits for enrollees, such as dental, vision and hearing benefits. Between 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was enacted, and 2016, premiums are expected to decrease by nearly 10 percent and enrollment is projected to increase by more than 50 percent to approximately 17.4 million enrollees, which represents about 32 percent of the Medicare population. At the same time, beneficiaries are receiving higher quality care. About 65 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees are currently enrolled in plans with four or more stars for 2016, a significant increase from an estimated 17 percent of enrollees in such plans in 2009.
The Annual Election Period for Medicare health and drug plans begins on October 15, 2015 and ends December 7, 2015. Plan costs and covered benefits can change from year-to-year. Medicare beneficiaries should look at their coverage choices and decide what options best meet their needs. Beneficiaries who need assistance can visit www.medicare.gov, call 1-800-MEDICARE, or contact their State health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Beneficiaries who are satisfied with their current coverage do not need to do anything.