The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), a non-partisan legislative agency that provides Congress with policy analysis and recommendations on the Medicare program, released its most recent report to Congress. One section of this report focuses on Medicare Advantage (Part C) and the difficulties that beneficiaries encounter when trying to compare various plan offerings. This report suggests that standardizing certain supplemental benefits such as hearing, vision, and dental, would provide greater transparency and value to beneficiaries.
The report provides that
Medicare beneficiaries have an average of 41 Medicare Advantage (MA) plans (offered by an average of eight insurers) available in their area. The average number of available plans has more than doubled in the last five years. Plan benefit packages vary, and research has found that beneficiaries have difficulty comparing plans and deciding which one best meets their needs when they have many choices. One source of variation is the coverage of non-Medicare supplemental benefits. All plans cover at least some supplemental benefits, and they play an important role in attracting enrollment. However, the coverage of these benefits is entirely optional, unlike coverage for Part A and Part B services, and varies widely across plans. In addition, our understanding of utilization and spending trends for supplemental benefits is limited because plans do not submit encounter data for them.
Standardizing supplemental benefits could make these benefits more transparent and help ensure that plans provide sufficient value to MA enrollees and taxpayers, but policymakers would need to balance the goals of making it easier for beneficiaries to compare plans and letting plans design their own benefits. One way to realize some of the gains from standardized benefits while giving plans flexibility would be to standardize a limited number of common supplemental benefits, such as dental, hearing, and vision benefits.
MedPAC.gov (2023) June 2023 Report to Congress: Medicare and Health-Care Delivery System (accessed August 4, 2023).
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