Medicare Advantage Enrollment Grows Considerably: What’s the Deal?

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Despite the controversy surrounding Medicare Advantage, Medicare enrollment is up by almost 10% compared to the numbers from last year. With the Medicare eligibility not having changed much in this time period, it’s leading many people to ask why.

Why is Medicare enrollment up, and what does this mean for the future of healthcare in the US?

The Raw Medicare Advantage Numbers

As of February 2020, approximately 24.4 million seniors and people with disabilities were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. If that sounds like a lot to you, it is. According to the data released an analyzed from last year, that is about a 9.4% increase.

This isn’t the “normal” growth that Medicare enrollment specialists expected, either. The average growth rate in 2019 was just 6.8%, so you can see how big of an increase it really is.

So, why does this drastic increase actually matter?

Medicare Eligibility and Controversy

With Medicare Advantage enrollment up so drastically, many people are questioning just what the deal is. And where to go from here, as the program isn’t without its many concerns.

Medicare Advantage is run by private health insurers and has seen a lot of criticism over the past few years for being a more expensive option for those that are older or disabled, especially for the coverage that they give.

Another thing to consider is that many Medicare Advantage programs have been rightfully accused of making applicants appear sicker than they are, which will increase their premiums or even deny them coverage entirely.

For many people looking into their Medicare eligibility, Medicare Advantage seems like the worst option available. But according to the numbers, more people are signing up than ever before.

Is Medicare Advantage Really That Bad?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently published a summary and outlook of Medicare Advantage, and it wasn’t very flattering. Net Medicare spending is projected to be $22 billion higher than originally planned, and “higher spending for Medicare Advantage” is the direct reason.

Higher payment rates are one of the main reasons for the increase in spending. The CBO also noted the likelihood that patients are being coded into the system as “being in poorer health” than the agency expected.

Watchdog agencies have actually warned the federal government before that they need to keep a closer eye on the coding practices of insurance carriers for Medicare Advantage and suggested a more frequent, aggressive audit to help prevent this.

For now, Medicare Advantage continues to grow in popularity, but not without some major questions on the sustainability and value of the program.