Medicare Advantage Plans Enter a New Age of Innovation and Competition

When your business is heavily regulated by the federal government, innovation and progress don’t come easy. Such is the case with Medicare Advantage (MA) plans which provide health coverage to 22 million Medicare beneficiaries. Everything about operating these plans (benefits, rates, marketing campaigns, etc.) happens under the watchful eye of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).


Last year, MA plans received some good news. CMS announced that plans could add supplemental benefits for home care and adult day care in 2019.  Now, CMS is allowing MA plans to expand coverage in 2020 with benefits that are “not necessarily health-related but have a reasonable expectation of improving or maintaining the health.”


Watch for new plans and new benefits coming in 2020.


According to Home Health Care News, there are at least 16 new MA plans becoming available  during the 2020 Annual Election Period when members can switch MA plans. Added competition is a good thing for members who are seeing rate reductions and more benefit options than ever.


For example, Alignment Healthcare has announced new options in California with benefits that include:


  • Grandkids On-Demand which connects college students with members who need assistance with non-medical services such as light housekeeping, technology lessons and general companionship.


  • $10-$20 per month grocery benefit to buy eligible groceries at participating stores such as CVS, Walmart and Walgreens.


  • Free transportation via Uber and Lyft to get to doctor appointments.


Alignment Health also promotes what they call “the first-ever Black Card for healthcare” which links members with a personal concierge to schedule doctor appointments, arrange transportation, and answer health care questions 24/7.


How will marketing departments address the growing competition?


According to a recent survey, nearly 60% of seniors said they would consider switching their current Medicare Advantage Plan in the near future. That fact, plus slickly packaged benefits like Alignment Health’s Black Card, makes you wonder how traditional players like the Blue plans and Cignas of the world will be amping up their marketing strategies.


Retention efforts will be paramount as members are pursued by attractive new MA plans and begin to wonder, “what has my plan done for me lately.” Those insurers with strong data analytics on their side will certainly be looking for at-risk member segments to target with compelling reasons to stay the course.


Acquisition will also be a challenge that demands something more than a refresh of last-year’s campaign. People aging into Medicare will have the broadest choice of plans ever. They will also be the most digitally savvy and health-conscious of any Medicare segment. Perhaps it’s time for a digitally-focused makeover and a new health-forward positioning?


Across the marketing spectrum, new competition may be the motivation that many insurers need to push the envelope … as long as everything is in compliance with those CMS guidelines we healthcare marketers love so dearly.

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