Sweeping changes to Medicare increased enrollment and options, saved beneficiaries, taxpayers more than $8 billion

Medicare 2020 Open Enrollment began Oct. 15 and goes through Dec. 7.

This coming year, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced seniors will have more choices and spend less money, a pledge expressed by President Donald Trump’s latest executive order.

CMS also announced for the first time in a decade the launching of a modernized and newly redesigned Medicare Plan Finder, the most used tool on Medicare.gov.

Users will be able to more easily shop and compare Medicare Advantage and Part D plans and compare pricing among original Medicare, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare supplemental insurance or Medigap policies.

The cost reductions and expanded choices implemented over the last two years specifically impacting two programs – Medicare Advantage and Part D – have saved beneficiaries roughly $2.65 billion in premium costs since 2017, CMS announced ahead of open enrollment.

Decreased premium costs for Medicare Advantage and Part D over the past three years alone is estimated to have saved taxpayers nearly $6 billion in the form of lower Medicare premium subsidies, CMS says.

CMS has been focused on improving Medicare Advantage to ensure lower costs, create more options and benefits tailored to patients’ needs, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said.

“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,” Azar added.

Unlike the changes made over the past two years, the Medicare for All Act introduced in the Senate, “would destroy our current Medicare program,” Trump’s new executive order says.

“‘Medicare for All’ would take away the choices currently available within Medicare and centralize even more power in Washington, harming seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries,” the order states.

The order, signed ahead of open enrollment, directs HHS to expand choices in the Medicare program and further reduce costs.

It also strengthens the popular alternative to traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, which is administered by private insurers.

Roughly 34 percent, or more than 20 million, Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans in 2018. Enrollment more than doubled over the last decade and is projected to cover 42 percent of beneficiaries by 2028, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Medicare Advantage premiums in 2020 are expected to decrease by 23 percent from 2018, while plan choices, benefits and enrollment will continue to increase, CMS says.

The 2020 Medicare Advantage average monthly premium will be the lowest in the last 13 years, with more than 24 million Medicare beneficiaries projected to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2020, CMS adds, an increase of 30.6 percent since 2017.

Medicare beneficiaries will have about 1,200 more Medicare Advantage plan choices operating in 2020 than in 2018, according to CMS.

The average monthly basic Part D premium has also decreased by 13.5 percent, CMS adds.

The newly updated Medicare.gov will have 2020 Medicare Advantage and Part D premiums and cost-sharing information in addition to Star Ratings for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans to help beneficiaries compare and choose which options are best for them.

“Americans want health care reforms that expand choice and lower costs,” Sam Adolphsen, policy director at the Foundation for Government Accountability, told The Center Square. “Opening the door to innovative health care solutions that reduce burdensome regulations will expand access and improve quality.”

Medicare Open Enrollment begins on Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7.

This article was first published by The Center Square.



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