Medicare Advantage Enrollee Numbers Are Rising — Here's Why

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans has outpaced expectations, but people should use caution when viewing these plans, expert says.

Medicare advantage in a clipboard.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

CVS Health's recent announcement that its 2024 Medicare Advantage plan enrollment grew more than expected is not too surprising given the perks these types of plans can offer, but people should use caution when considering these plans, a Medicare consultant told Kiplinger recently.

CVS Health's news is also in line with data from the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, which shows that more than 32 million seniors and people with disabilities are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. The number is expected to grow by more than 34 million by year-end.

“The appeal of these plans is quite clear — they often come with attractive perks like $0 premiums, complimentary gym memberships and coverage for dental, vision, hearing and other services, which can be very enticing, especially when the economy is shaky and political uncertainty is on the rise,” Emily Gang, owner of The Medicare Coach consultancy.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

There has also a lot of marketing and advertising around these plans, especially during Medicare's open enrollment period. A survey by The Commonwealth Fund published last September noted the ubiquitous advertising and marketing from private plans. Some survey respondents reported "experiences with Medicare marketing that would violate federal rules, including marketers asking for Social Security or Medicare numbers outside the enrollment process and advertising special, time-limited discounts, which are not permitted," according to Commonwealth Fund.

The performance of these plans has also been under the microscope at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS), which rates Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans annually under a five-star system that measures the quality of the health and drug services that enrollees receive. In October, CMS data showed a dip in 2024 Medicare Advantage plan ratings, as Kiplinger previously reported.

The bottom line, according to Gang, is that beneficiaries need to dig deeper to understand the details of each plan. This includes such matters as cost, coverage and restrictions on switching to a plan under Medigap, which is supplemental insurance to Medicare, she added.

“While the short-term benefits may seem promising, the long-term implications could be quite different, and that's an aspect that shouldn't be overlooked when making such an important decision,” Gang said.

Medicare's 2024 handbook

To help you better understand the ins and outs of both Medicare and Medicaid, Medicare published its latest "Medicare and You" handbook last year for the 2024 plan year. It includes key updates such as:

  • Savings on prescription drugs: If you have Medicare drug coverage (Part D) and your drug costs are high enough to reach the catastrophic coverage phase, you don’t have to pay a copayment or coinsurance.
  • Lower cost for insulin and vaccines: Your Medicare drug plan cannot charge you more than $35 for a one-month supply of each insulin product that Part D covers.
  • Changes to telehealth coverage: You can get telehealth services at any location in the U.S., including your home, until the end of 2024.
  • Managing and treating chronic pain: Medicare now covers monthly services to treat chronic pain if you’ve been living with it for more than three months.
  • COVID-19 care: Medicare will continue to cover the COVID-19 vaccine as well as several tests and treatments.

Related Content

Joey Solitro

Joey Solitro is a freelance financial journalist at Kiplinger with more than a decade of experience. A longtime equity analyst, Joey has covered a range of industries for media outlets including The Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, Market Realist, and TipRanks. Joey holds a bachelor's degree in business administration.