A Medicare card on a scooter (Image: Allison Bell/ALM)

A major web broker, eHealth Inc., has pulled another batch of data out of its computers.

This time, eHealth is focusing on consumers who used its systems to buy coverage during the federal government’s first Medicare open enrollment period.

(Related: 3 Reasons Individual Health Could Make a Comeback)

The new open enrollment period is really what amounts to a plan-switching period, for people who already have Medicare Advantage plan coverage.

Part of the new eHealth report presents data that may reflect the unique characteristics of eHealth’s users, or of open enrollment period plan switchers. The web broker found, for example, that its customers’ average Medicare Advantage monthly premiums dropped to $8 this year, from $12 in early 2018. That may or may not reflect what other Medicare plan agents and brokers are seeing.

But eHealth also presented information that may reflect what’s going on in the market as a whole: Why Medicare Advantage plan enrollees are thinking about moving out of their old plans.

The Medicare Plan Calendar

The Medicare Advantage program gives private insurers a chance to sell plans that offer a comprehensive alternative to traditional Medicare coverage.

Medicare supplement insurance policies, or Medigap policies, help users of traditional Medicare coverage, or Original Medicare, pay Original Medicare deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance amounts.

Medicare program managers use an “enrollment period” system, or limits on when people can sign up for Medicare plans without showing they have a special excuse, to push people to pay for any private coverage they want to own even when they feel healthy.

Consumers can sign up for Medicare plans of all kinds when they turn 65.

Consumers can also sign up for Medicare Advantage plans during an annual enrollment period that runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

In the past, Medicare Advantage plan enrollees could return to Original Medicare during a Medicare Advantage disenrollment period that ran from Jan. 1 through Feb. 14.

This year, Medicare program managers replaced the Medicare Advantage disenrollment period with the Medicare open enrollment period. The new Medicare open enrollment period runs from Jan. 1 through March 31. Medicare Advantage plan enrollees who hate their plans can use the open enrollment period either to move to a different Medicare Advantage plan or to switch back to Original Medicare.

Why the Switchers Switched

Analysts at eHealth received survey responses from 579 Medicare Advantage plan enrollees who used the eHealth Medicare plan shopping system from Jan. 1 through March 31.

Here’s a look at the factors that led the enrollees to shop for new plans.

  1. They moved: 8%
  2. Their drug coverage change: 9%
  3. Their premiums increased: 9%
  4. Their doctors left their plan networks: 12%
  5. Their co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs were too high: 15%
  6. They were unhappy with their Medicare Advantage plan providers: 22%

Resources

A copy of the eHealth Medicare enrollment survey report is available here.

— Read More Medicare Advantage Enrollees Slide Away: Deft, on ThinkAdvisor.

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