Supplemental Benefits

Medicare Advantage Organizations Chase ‘Signature Trend’ of Offering Extra Benefits for 2023

Judicious enhancements to supplemental benefits was the common theme as Medicare Advantage organizations prepared their bids for 2023, according to actuaries who recently helped sponsors submit bids that were due on June 6. The benefit changes come as plans considered potential bonus payment losses in 2024 and other possible drivers of increased costs next year.

“The signature trend of this year was carrying forward a lot of the innovative benefits that we’ve seen take hold over the past few years,” remarks Tim Murray, principal with Wakely, an HMA company. These include “wallet” benefits such as over-the-counter card allowances and flexible “choose your own adventure” benefits often involving healthy food and/or groceries, he observes.

Despite Growth, Barriers Remain to Driving Benefit Innovation

Innovative, mostly non-medical supplemental benefits have seen tremendous growth in the few years the Medicare Advantage program has allowed them. But that growth is still from a base of zero, and industry experts suggest that numerous barriers are keeping adoption of these new supplemental benefits at a relatively slow pace.

Starting with plan year 2019, MA organizations began offering a wider range of benefits such as Adult Day Care and In-Home Support Services thanks to CMS’s reinterpretation of the definition of “primarily health-related supplemental benefits.” And with the passage of the CHRONIC Care Act of 2018, MA plans in 2020 began offering Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill (SSBCI), a category of “non-primarily health related” items and services that can be made available to certain beneficiaries.

Nearly One-Third of Medicare Advantage Members Receive Extra Supplemental Benefits as of 2022

More than 30% of Medicare Advantage members are currently enrolled in a plan that offers at least one type of newer supplemental benefit, according to an April report from ATI Advisory and the Long-Term Quality Alliance. Researchers studied the growth of both Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill (SSBCI), established by the CHRONIC Care Act of 2018 and first made available to eligible beneficiaries in 2020, and Expanded Primarily Health-Related Benefits (EPHRB), which emerged in 2019 following CMS’s reinterpretation of the definition of “primarily health-related.” Both benefit types have grown significantly over the past two years, with nutritional benefits, transportation and in-home support services among the most popular offerings. Just one benefit type, adult day health services, saw a decline in uptake, which report authors attributed to lack of availability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. See an overview of the findings in the table below.

2022 Outlook: MA Insurer Execs Plan Investments Supporting Equity, SDOH

For our annual series of forward-looking articles, AIS Health recently featured the perspectives of multiple industry experts on what Medicare Advantage stakeholders will be focusing on in 2022. For a follow-up installment, we asked several health plan leaders to share how their respective organizations will be innovating this year to meet aging members’ needs, advance health equity and address social determinants of health (SDOH) amid the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic emphasized how our most daunting challenge — reaching our members in a new remote, digital-first landscape — remains our most compelling opportunity. Delivering home-based care to our nearly 10 million Medicare members and equipping them with the resources they need to age in place are central to our 2022 agenda,” says Jamie Sharp, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of Aetna Medicare, a CVS Health company.

2022 Outlook: MAOs Face Payment Unknowns, Increased Competition This Year

For the Medicare Advantage industry, change wasn’t a major outcome of the Biden administration’s first year in office. But for 2022, MA organizations face a host of unknowns — such as potential risk adjustment and star ratings changes that could impact plan revenue — and challenges that include staying competitive in an increasingly rich benefits landscape. For AIS Health’s annual roundup of perspectives on the year ahead, industry experts weigh in on how doing business in 2022 might differ from previous years.

AIS Health: What do you view as some of the biggest challenges or uncertainties facing MAOs in 2022?

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2022 Outlook: MAOs Face Payment-Related Unknowns, Increased Competition

For the Medicare Advantage industry, change wasn’t a major outcome of the Biden administration’s first year in office. But for 2022, MA organizations face a host of unknowns — such as potential risk adjustment and star ratings changes that could impact plan revenue — and challenges that include staying competitive in an increasingly rich benefits landscape. For AIS Health’s annual roundup of perspectives on the year ahead, industry experts weigh in on how doing business in 2022 might differ from previous years.

AIS Health: What do you view as some of the biggest challenges or uncertainties facing MAOs in 2022?

Ahead of 2023 Rate Setting, BMA Issues End-of-Year Wish List

As CMS gets ready to set Medicare Advantage rates for the 2023 calendar year, the Better Medicare Alliance in a Dec. 6 letter urged Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to take several actions to address social determinants of health (SDOH) and close the gap on longstanding racial disparities. The research and advocacy group supports more than 170 ally organizations that include several major MA insurers. Among its recommendations, BMA asked that CMS:

As Supplemental Benefits Rise, In-Home Services Skyrocket in ’22

CMS’s reinterpretation of “primarily health-related” benefits has led to more Medicare Advantage plans offering services such as in-home support services, home-based palliative care, support for caregivers and therapeutic massage for the upcoming plan year, according to a new analysis from Milliman. The number of MA plans that will offer one of five selected benefits grew 43% from 2021, to 824 plans, while 202 plans will offer at least two of the benefits next year, up from 175 plans in 2021. Notably, the number of plans offering in-home support skyrocketed from 296 in 2021 to more than 500 in 2022. Of the five studied benefits, only adult day health services will see a decline in availability next year.