Medicare 2018: More Choices, Decreased Premiums

Medicare Part D premiums expected to decrease for the first time since 2012.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that Medicare enrollees will have expanded choices and options for health coverage in 2018, according to a press release. Patients currently insured through Medicare Advantage will also experience lower monthly premiums, while enrollment is expected to reach a record high.

Previously, the CMS announced policies that will allow for plan flexibility to fit the needs of Medicare-insured patients, according to the release.

"More affordable choices lead to greater health security for those who need it most,” said former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, MD. “Both Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D are providing a higher level of health security for so many of America’s seniors precisely because they are built to be more responsive to their needs. Today's news, alongside the long-term trend of more folks choosing Medicare Advantage, is a testament to the power of a more patient-centered approach to healthcare.”

The CMS projects that the average monthly premium for Medicare Advantage plans will decrease by $1.91, from $31.91 in 2017 to $30 in 2018, according to the release. Approximately 77% of patients who are not planning to change their plan will have the same or lower premiums next year.

Notably, enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is estimated to jump 9% to 20.4 million in 2018, which comprises more than one-third of all Medicare-insured patients, according to the CMS.

Nearly all Medicare patients have access to thousands of Advantage plans offered in the country. The CMS reports that many enrollees will also receive supplemental benefits in 2018, including dental, vision, and hearing.

Medicare Part D access is also projected to be strong in 2018, with all patients having the option to enroll. Previously, the CMS announced that the average premium for Part D is expected to be $33.50 per month in 2018, a decrease of $1.20 from 2017. The projected decrease in Part D is the first time it has been lowered since 2012, according to the CMS.

The CMS is also improving Medicare Open Enrollment to ensure that enrollees are knowledgeable about their plan choices and the difference between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Initiatives include changing the handbook, implementing email communication, and changing their web page to direct customers to resource information, according to the release.

“The success of Medicare Advantage and the prescription drug program demonstrates what a strong and transparent health market can do—increase quality while lowering costs,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “When Americans are empowered to choose the healthcare plans that fit their needs and the needs of their families, they demand more from their insurance plans and in turn healthcare plans, like any business, provide customers better service at a lower cost.”