What does this year’s Medicare AEP have in store for us?
During the Annual Election Period that runs between October 15 and December 7, Medicare enrollees will make their 2022 plan selections. With AEP right around the corner, here’s a look at what we can expect.
More Enrollees and Plan Options
The Medicare population has been growing quickly, and the percent of enrollees selecting Medicare Advantage has also been growing. CMS estimated that Medicare Advantage enrollment would reach 26.9 million in 2021, a 44% increase since 2017.
The number of plan options has also been on the rise. There were 4,800 Medicare Advantage plan options for 2021, a 76.6% increase since 2017. The average number of options per county reached 47, up from 39 in 2020.
About 10,000 people age into Medicare every day. Given this, it seems likely that the trend of growing Medicare enrollment and increased plan offerings will continue in 2022.
Telehealth surged in popularity in 2020, and Medicare enrollees may continue to be interested in this option when making plan selections for 2022.
According to the National Law Review, a proposal from CMS rejects requests to permanently add new telehealth services next year, although it does introduce some new virtual care services.
The Continued Impact of COVID
The pandemic contributed to the telehealth surge. In the upcoming AEP, we can continue to see other effects of COVID-19.
Although the country has been reopening since the vaccine rollout got underway, the new Delta variant has many people concerned. The CDC has recently updated its mask guidelines to say, “To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”
Last year, many enrollments were done remotely to comply with state stay-at-home orders and to reduce the spread of COVID. This year, many seniors may want to handle enrollment remotely again.
A Focus on Cost
Bucking the trend of rising healthcare costs, the cost of Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Part D plans has been going down in recent years. In 2021, the average monthly premium for Medicare Advantage was $21, the lowest since 2007. The average monthly premium for Medicare Part D was $30.50, a decrease of 12% since 2017.
This might change in 2022. CMS has said that the Medicare Part D monthly premium could increase 4.9% in 2022, reaching about $33.
In addition to the monthly premium, out-of-pocket costs are also a concern. A recent USC study found that Costco members pay less for prescription drugs than Medicare Part D enrollees. As prescription costs rise, finding ways to save could become a bigger priority.
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