The premium declines for bothprograms are a result of several actions that CMS has taken overthe last two years "to protect and strengthen the MedicareAdvantage and Part D programs.

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The average monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage plan is setto be the lowest in the last 13 years – at the same time planchoices, benefits and enrollment will continue to increase,according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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In 2020, the Medicare Advantage average monthly plan premiumwill drop to an estimated $23 – 14 percent lower than the $26.87average in 2019 and the lowest average since 2007, the CMS reports.Since 2017, the average monthly plan premium has fallen by anestimated 27.9 percent.

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The agency projects that 24.4 million people with Medicare willenroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for 2020 – an all-time high.Currently there are 22.2 million Medicare Advantage beneficiariesout of approximately 60 million people currently enrolled inMedicare. Enrollment in Medicare Advantage in 2020 is expected tohave risen by 30.6 percent since 2017.

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Related: Medicare Advantage, ACA or private insurance: Whichis most profitable?

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Beneficiaries will have more plan choices, with about 1,200 moreMedicare Advantage plans operating in 2020 than in 2018, accordingto the CMS. Broken down by county, the average number of MedicareAdvantage plan choices will rise from about 33 plans in 2019 to 39plans in 2020. Since 2017, the average number per county has risen49 percent.

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Regarding Part D prescription drug plans, the average monthlypremium on basic plans is projected to fall 13.5 percent to $30 in2020 — the lowest average since 2013, the CMS reports.

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Collectively, beneficiaries have saved roughly $2.65 billion inMedicare Advantage and Part D premium costs since 2017, the agencyestimates. As for taxpayers, the continued decline in such costsover the past three years should save them almost $6 billion in theform of lower Medicare premium subsidies, the CMS asserts.

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The premium declines for both programs are a result of severalactions that CMS has taken over the last two years "to protect andstrengthen the Medicare Advantage and Part D programs, drivingcompetition and lowering costs," the agency writes.

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Key actions include:

  • Removing limits requiring meaningful differences among aMedicare Advantage Organization's plans, resulting in more planchoices.
  • Streamlining government review and approval of marketingmaterials for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.
  • Expanding access to reduced cost sharing and additionalbenefits for enrollees with certain conditions, such diabetes andcongestive heart failure, due to the agency's reinterpretation ofuniformity in 2018.
  • Expanding access within Medicare Advantage plans tohealth-related supplemental benefits, such as adult care servicesor caregiver support services.
  • Expanding access within Medicare Advantage plans forchronically ill patients to additional supplemental benefits, suchas receiving meal delivery in more circumstances, transportationfor non-medical needs like grocery shopping, and home environmentservices in order to improve their health or overall function as itrelates to their chronic illness.
  • Implementing additional telehealth benefits within MedicareAdvantage plans to provide access to more providers in more partsof the country.
  • Providing clinicians with more information on out-pocket-costsand lower cost alternatives for prescription drugs so they candiscuss with beneficiaries at the time a prescription iswritten.
  • Allowing plans to cover prescription drugs differentlydepending on the reasons for which they are prescribed, similar tothe approach practiced within the private sector.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.