Here are 4 charts that show what the Medicare market looked like to its managers at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as of August...

(Images Credit: CMS)

1. Medicare Enrollment Trends

Medicare Advantage has been growing just a little faster than original Medicare enrollment.

2. Overall Medicare Enrollment

High levels of drug plan enrollment are much more concentrated than overall Medicare enrollment.

3. Stand-Alone Part D Drug Plan Penetration

Coverage has been much more uneven the overall Medicare enrollment.

4. Medicare Advantage Penetration

One highlight of this map is the Great Medicare Advantage Desert in the north central region.

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The Medicare annual enrollment started today and is set to run until Dec. 7.

Insurers are marking the occasion by running Medicare plan ads in heavy rotation on TV, renting space on billboards, and sending agents and brokers warnings to be careful about use of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ official Medicare Plan Finder system.

(Related: Medicare Managers Post 2020 Producer Comp Summaries)

CMS developers responded to bitter criticism about the old system by creating a new system. Some features from the old system have either not been included in the new system or are not yet ready for public use.

CMS has added a much-requested tool: a tool that can help consumers and agents estimate a consumer’s total yearly costs.

UnitedHealth sent agents a memo Friday that encourages agents to stick with UnitedHealth’s own Jarvis system, rather than relying on the Medicare Plan Finder information.

When a consumer adds personal data, for example, the consumer’s total estimated costs do not change, UnitedHealth says in the memo.

“This is not mathematically possible based on the plan benefits,” the company says.

Another problem is that the cost estimator tool does a poor job of reflecting the value of supplemental benefits, such as telehealth benefits, UnitedHealth says.

Many agents are still learning how to use the features that are available.

The system concerns come at a time of steady Medicare plan enrollment growth.

The CMS Medicare enrollment dashboard system shows that the country had about 61 million Medicare enrollees in August, with 23 million in Medicare Advantage plans and 38 million in original Medicare.

Traditionally, many agents have preferred selling stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and Medicare supplement insurance over selling Medicare Advantage plans.

For a Medicare, Medicare Advantage and stand-alone drug plan enrollment overview, see the data slides in the slideshow above. Wiggle your computer pointer over the first slide to make the slide control arrows show up.

— Read 6 Forces That Are Putting Medicare Enrollees in Play Now, on ThinkAdvisor.

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