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Medicare Advantage Group Seeks Better Plan Extra Showcase

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What You Need to Know

  • Many Medicare Advantage plans have been offering dental, vision, hearing and exercise class benefits.
  • Medicare program managers now encourage issuers to offer social support benefits.
  • The Better Medicare Alliance says consumers need a way to compare plans based on supplemental benefits.

Medicare program managers should do more to help Medicare Advantage plan providers tell shoppers about exercise class benefits, transportation benefits and other supplemental benefits, according to the Better Medicare Alliance.

The group is calling for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to require plans to provide standardized descriptions of their extras, then put those standardized descriptions in the Medicare Plan Finder system, the alliance says.

The alliance included those recommendations in a letter commenting on the draft Medicare Advantage rules CMS has proposed for 2023.

The Background

The Medicare Advantage program gives private insurers a chance to provide plans that serve as an alternative to the traditional Medicare program. About 28 million of the 63 million Medicare enrollees now have Medicare Advantage plan coverage.

The Medicare Plan Finder is an online directory that consumers can use to find and compare Medicare plans.

The Better Medicare Alliance is a group that represents health insurers, providers, insurers and others with an interest in the Medicare Advantage program.

The alliance notes in its comment letter that Medicare Advantage plans have been supplementing traditional Medicare plan benefits with other benefits, such as dental insurance benefits, for years.

In recent years, Medicare program managers have encouraged the plan providers to add benefits that relate to “social determinants of health,” such as access to nutritious meals and support programs for caregivers.

The alliance notes, for example, that many plans offer SilverSneakers exercise classes, and that enrollees participating in those classes 18% lower medical costs than other enrollees.

The Recommendations

The alliance says CMS should keep existing rules that let plans take a flexible approach to designing supplemental benefits.

CMS should also standardize the format and language used on the Medicare Plan Finder, to make sure that plans discuss supplemental benefits in a similar manner, the alliance says.

“Standardization will increase transparency in supplemental benefit offerings while providing beneficiaries with additional information to make more informed decisions about plan options,” the alliance says.

If the Medicare Plan Finder adds more, standardized information about the supplemental benefits, that will address current system limitations, and consumers will have an easier time finding plans with supplemental benefits and comparing the available supplemental benefits options, the alliance says.

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