With Medicare's open enrollment period beginning Monday, the number of private Medicare Advantage plans with four- or five-star quality ratings available to beneficiaries in 2013 will increase to 127, up from 106 in 2012, CMS announced Friday, Modern Healthcare's "Window to Washington" reports (Zigmond, "Window to Washington," Modern Healthcare, 10/12).
The ratings rank plans on a one- to five-star scale and are based on information reported by the insurers, Medicare records and an annual survey of some beneficiaries.
Specifically, the number of five-star rated Medicare Advantage insurance plans offered will increase from nine in 2012 to 11 in 2013, while there will be 116 plans earning four and four-and-a-half stars in 2013, up from 97 in 2012 (Jaffe, "Capsules" Kaiser Health News, 10/15).
The 127 plans with four or five stars currently serve 37% of MA plan enrollees. The 106 plans that received four- or five-star ratings in 2012 serve 28% of MA plan enrollees ("Window to Washington," Modern Healthcare, 10/12).
The figures mean more Medicare beneficiaries will have access to higher-rated MA plans, according to CQ HealthBeat. In 2012, 51% of beneficiaries had access to four- or five-star rated plans; that ratio is expected to reach 68% in 2013, according to Jonathan Blum, director of Medicare (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 10/12).
Overall, the number of MA plan choices is expected to grow by 7%.
Beneficiaries will have the opportunity to enroll in the higher-rated plans during the open enrollment period, which is between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7. It is the second consecutive year in which Medicare launched its open-enrollment period early (Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 10/13).
More Highly Rated Drug Plans Available
CMS also said the number of highly rated, stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plans will increase from 13 in 2012 to 26 in 2013, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 10/12).
While the number of five-star prescription drug plans available in 2013 will be the same as in 2012, the number of four- and four-and-a-half-star prescription plans available in 2013 will increase from nine to 22 ("Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 10/15).
The percentage of beneficiaries who are enrolled in highly rated, stand-alone drug plans is expected to double from 9% in 2012 to 18% next year ("Window to Washington," Modern Healthcare, 10/12).
CMS Will Be More Aggressive With MA Plans
CMS officials said the federal government will be more aggressive about moving people out of lower-rated MA plans and into higher-scoring ones, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
CMS is planning to mail letters to beneficiaries enrolled in 26 plans nationwide that have received rating of two-and-a-half stars or less, encouraging them to enroll in higher-scoring plans. In addition, beneficiaries will no longer be able to enroll in those 26 plans directly through the Medicare.gov website.
"We believe they have better options than these chronically low-performing plans," Blum said (Sutherly, Columbus Dispatch, 10/13).
Premiums To Increase Slightly
Premiums for MA plans and prescription drugs plans are projected to increase slightly in 2013, according to CMS officials, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 10/13).
Monthly premiums for MA plans in 2013 are expected increase by 4.7%, or $1.47, on average, to $32.59 if beneficiaries keep their current plans, a CMS official said. If they decide to switch lower-cost plans at the same rate as they did last year, the official said the premium increase would average 1.8%, or 57 cents (Columbus Dispatch, 10/14).
Meanwhile, the average premium for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans will increase from $29.67 in 2012 to $30 next year, CMS said (Wall Street Journal, 10/13).