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This chart shows that the blue Medicare Advantage search activity trend line always peaks during the Oct. 15-Dec. 7 open enrollment period, and the the height of the peaks has been increasing, and that the gap between the blue Medicare Advantage activity line and the red line for Medicare supplement search activity has been widening.

Life Health > Health Insurance > Medicare Planning

Google Sees Strong Shopper Interest in Medicare Advantage Plans

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What You Need to Know

  • Agents and brokers face new marketing rules.
  • Quality rating changes have kneecapped some issuers.
  • Many consumers are searching for information about Medicare plans from one particular organization.

Consumers are gearing up to shop hard for Medicare plans for 2023, in spite of the effects of new Medicare program rules on marketing exuberance.

The annual election period for Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans starts Saturday and runs through Dec. 7.

The Google Trends tool shows that, in the past four years, search activity for the term “Medicare Advantage” peaked during the week ending Dec. 4, 2021, as consumers were locking in coverage for 2022.

The Google Trends activity level for “Medicare Advantage” stands at 76% this year, which is the same activity level Google Trends showed for the week ending Oct. 16, 2021, as the annual election period for 2022 was beginning.

The median activity level for “Medicare Advantage” over the past four years has been 37% of the Dec. 4, 2021, week peak.

Search activity for plans offered by AARP, the CVS Health Aetna unit and Humana have been especially strong. AARP has higher Google Trends scores than any other issuer or distributor for both Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare supplement insurance policies.

What It Means

For insurers and Medicare plan agents, this could be a good year for Medicare plan sales.

For financial advisors, the implication is that Medicare plan marketing efforts may continue to have a major effect on how clients think about health care, insurance and financial services arrangements in general.

The TPMO Factor

For the past two years, major television marketing campaigns helped shape Medicare plan sales.

Some consumers complained about misleading ads and confusing lead-generation efforts.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services responded by setting new regulations for “third-party marketing organizations.” Agents and brokers now must give customers warnings about any limitations on the menu of local plans they offer, and they must record their calls with consumers.

Some of the major national Medicare plan sales companies seem to have reduced the size of their operations.

Star Ratings

CMS recently changed the methods it uses to calculate star ratings, or quality ratings, for Medicare plans.

Some companies’ plans suffered sharp enough drops in star ratings to affect how they do business.

Medical Supplement Insurance

One popular alternative to Medicare Advantage plans is combining Original Medicare with Medicare supplement insurance.

The median Google Trends activity level for the search term, “Medicare supplement” is 18% of the peak activity level for the term “Medicare Advantage.”

The activity level for “Medicare supplement” is now 25%, down from 32% for the week ending Oct. 16, 2021.

A comparison of the activity level for “Medicare Advantage” and “Medicare supplement” shows that the activity level for “Medicare supplement” has dropped a little. The activity level for “Medicare Advantage” has increased, leading to bigger differences between search activity for “Medicare Advantage” and “Medicare supplement.”

The Issuers

Here’s a look at what some health insurers are saying about their 2023 Medicare Advantage plan menus and operations:

Aetna, an arm of Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health, will increase the number of counties where it offers Medicare Advantage plans in 2023 by 141, to 2,014.

It also will be expanding its Aetna Medicare Eagle Medicare Advantage plans, which are designed for military veterans and wrap around Veterans Affairs health care coverage.

Aetna is reducing prescription drug deductibles to $0 at all Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans, and it will offer $0 copays at preferred network pharmacies on many commonly prescribed drugs.

The company will cap enrollees’ share of insulin costs at $35 per month.

About 93% of the company’s 2023 Medicare Advantage plans will include a hearing aid benefit, and some enrollees will get debit cards that can pay food or utility bills.

Bright Health Group, a 6-year-old, Minneapolis-based issuer, says it will focus on its accountable care organization-based Medicare Advantage plans in California and Florida. This year, the company has been offering Medicare plan coverage in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho and Illinois as well as in California and Florida.

Cigna, a Bloomfield, Connecticut-based insurer, has increased the number of counties in which it offers Medicare Advantage plans by about 22%, to 581 counties.

Cigna will sell Medicare Advantage plans in New York state and Kentucky for the first time.

Wellness incentive cards will offer enrollees up to $200 in benefits payments.

The company is also expanding a caregiver support program.

Elevance Health — the Indianapolis-based insurer that used to be known as Anthem — will add 145 counties to its service area.

About three-quarters of its 2023 plans will have a $0 premium and no co-pay for visits to a primary care physician.

Many enrollees will get debit cards that can pay grocery and utility bills.

Humana, a Louisville, Kentucky-based insurer, is working with USAA Life Insurance Company to add a  Medicare Advantage plan designed for military veterans.

The new Humana-USAA plan complements the benefits veterans get from the Veterans Affairs health care system.

The company is offering ordinary Medicare Advantage plans in 260 more counties than this year.

Some enrollees with chronic health problems will get the ability to spend up to $3,330 in Humana cash per year on items such as groceries, pest control, home supplies and disaster relief kits.

In Florida, some enrollees will get debit cards that can pay $250 for dental, hearing and vision services and devices.

UnitedHealth Group, a Minnetonka, Minnesota-based insurer, says it will expand its Medicare Advantage plan market area enough for it to reach 95% of Medicare enrollees.

Low-income enrollees can get a credit of more than $2,200 per year to help with paying food expenses and utility bills.

A home support benefit can provide up to $225 per quarter to pay for services such as companion care and light cleaning.

A flex benefit can provide up to $750 per year for dental, vision and hearing care items and services.

Pictured: A Medicare plan search activity chart. (Image: Google Trends)


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