The average monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan is projected to drop to $19 in 2022, compared with $21.22 this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on Sept 29. Enrollment in these private insurance plans, which are alternatives to original Medicare, continues to climb and is expected to reach 29.5 million next year.
The CMS had already announced that the average monthly premium for a Part D prescription drug plan — also a private insurance product — will increase slightly to $33, compared with $31.47 this year. Premium and deductible rates for Medicare Part A, which covers hospital services, and Part B, which covers doctor visits, diagnostic tests and outpatient care, are expected to be announced in October.
The MA premium estimates are being released two weeks before more than 63 million individuals with Medicare will have an opportunity to review their coverage and decide whether to make any changes. The open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Any adjustments people make will take effect in January.
Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, covers all the medical services that parts A and B do, and most plans also cover prescription drugs. The federal government also allows MA plans to offer dental, vision, hearing and other services that original Medicare does not. Not all MA plans offer a full array of extra services.
According to the CMS, the percentage of MA plans that will offer special supplemental benefits for chronically ill individuals will increase from 19 percent this year to 25 percent in 2022.
The average premiums for MA and Part D, the two private plan Medicare choices, are national averages. The actual premiums that beneficiaries will pay depend on the plans they select and where they live. When an enrollee chooses an MA plan, he or she will still be responsible for the government-set Part B monthly premium — $148.50 in 2021.
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Dena Bunis covers Medicare, health care, health policy and Congress. She also writes the Medicare Made Easy column for the AARP Bulletin. An award-winning journalist, Bunis spent decades working for metropolitan daily newspapers, including as Washington bureau chief for the Orange County Register and as a health policy and workplace writer for Newsday.