Changes in Medicare Advantage Plans Drive Jump in Satisfaction Ratings

Current data show that approximately 68 percent of Medicare Advantage plans that offer prescription drug coverage have an overall 2022 rating of four stars or higher.

These ratings, based on beneficiaries’ satisfaction with plans being offered, reflect improvements by sponsors in a number of areas. This sharp increase should come as good news to seniors.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have recently released their 2022 Star Ratings for Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. CMS rates plans on a scale of one star (poor performance) to five (excellent). Current data show that approximately 68 percent of Medicare Advantage plans that offer prescription drug coverage have an overall 2022 rating of four stars or higher, up from 49 percent in 2021.(1) Dave Rich, CEO of Ensurem, a Florida-based insurance technology and product distribution firm, says, “These ratings, based on beneficiaries’ satisfaction with plans being offered, reflect improvements by sponsors in a number of areas. This sharp increase should come as good news to seniors as they choose their coverage for the coming year.”

Another bit of good news from CMS, notes Rich, is that while the average premium for Medicare Part D prescription plans will increase slightly in 2022, from $31.47 to $33.00, the cost of the average premium for Medicare Advantage plans will actually decrease, from $21.22 in 2021 to $19.00 in 2022, a drop of almost 10 percent.(2)

Unfortunately, says Rich, these savings will be offset by a recently announced increase in the Medicare Part B premium, which will increase by $21.60 per month, from $148.50 in 2021 to $170.10 in 2022, the largest dollar increase in the history of the Medicare program. CMS has cited three primary reasons for the increase:

  • Rising prices to deliver health care to Medicare enrollees, and increasing use of the Medicare system
  • The need to make up for a significantly lower-than-planned increase in 2021 ($3.00 per month above 2020) due to the pandemic
  • The need for financial reserves in case CMS decides Medicare will cover a new Alzheimer’s disease drug, Aduhelm, which has been priced by its manufacturer at an estimated $56,000 per year.(3)

All of which, says Rich, points to the need for seniors to make certain their Medicare coverage is the best possible fit for their budgets and needs. The CMS star rating system, he says, is a reliable guide to quality, noting that his own firm, an online insurance brokerage, handles only four- and five-star plans. Under the star system, Medicare Advantage plans, he explains, are rated on how well they perform regarding health maintenance (screenings, tests, vaccines); managing chronic conditions; responsiveness and care; member complaints and problems; and customer service. Part D drug plans are rated on customer service, member complaints and problems, member experience, drug pricing and patient safety.(4)

The current annual Medicare open enrollment period began on October 15 and ends December 7. However, CMS has declared a special enrollment period (SEP) beginning December 8 and running through November 30, 2022. During this time, beneficiaries in a lower-rated plan can freely switch to a five-star Medicare Advantage plan.(5)

While noting the possible desirability of such a move, Rich urges seniors to inform themselves and proceed carefully. If, for instance, you are a senior leaving a plan that includes prescription drugs and joining a five-star plan that does not, you could end up losing your drug coverage. In such a case, he says, you might have to wait until the next time you’re eligible, which could be October 15, to enroll in drug benefits.

“The Medicare Advantage program,” says Rich, “is improving all the time, and offers seniors a lot of value and a lot of protection. It is, however, complicated. I urgently counsel seniors to go through all their needs and all the possibilities with a competent professional insurance broker. The time you invest in that conversation could make a big difference in your health and security.”

About Ensurem:
Ensurem, headquartered in Largo, FL, is a leading technology and product distribution company serving carriers and consumers within the massive U.S. senior market. The company offers Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, vision, dental, hospital indemnity and final expense insurance. It also provides end-to-end solutions for carriers, including product development, digital marketing and consumer-centric insurance technologies. For more information, please visit ensurem.com.

1.    “CMS Releases 2022 Medicare Advantage and Part D Star Ratings to Help Medicare Beneficiaries Compare Plans.” CMS, cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-releases-2022-medicare-advantage-and-part-d-star-ratings-help-medicare-beneficiaries-compare.
2.    “CMS Releases 2022 Premiums and Cost-Sharing Information for Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans.” CMS, cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-releases-2022-premiums-and-cost-sharing-information-medicare-advantage-and-prescription-drug.
3.    Bunis, Dena. “Medicare Part B Premium Increase for 2022 Largest Ever.” AARP, aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-2021/part-b-premiums-increase.html.
4.    “How to Compare Plans Using the Medicare Star Rating System.” Medicare Interactive, medicareinteractive.org/get-answers/medicare-health-coverage-options/changing-medicare-coverage/how-to-compare-plans-using-the-medicare-star-rating-system.
5.    Dennis, Leonie. “What’s a 5-Star Medicare Advantage Plan?” MedicareGuide.com, 16 Oct. 2021, medicareguide.com/switch-5-star-medicare-advantage-plan-95744.

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