VeriStat: County-Level Analysis of Medicare Advantage Plan Availability

New to Medicare Advantage? Check out our recent blog to better understand Medicare Advantage basics and why these plans are increasingly popular.

 

Medicare Advantage is a growing business. Enrollment has nearly doubled in the past decade and has nearly quadrupled since the early 2000s. There are over 22 million people enrolled in Medicare Advantage in 2019* and it is poised to keep growing as the large baby boomer population continues to age into Medicare. By 2035, those 65 and older are projected to make up nearly one quarter of the United States population. For this VeriStat series, we will be examining various aspects of Medicare Advantage plan offerings. In this first post, we explore the geographic availability of plans and determine how many options potential enrollees can choose between.

 

The data science team at Vericred assessed how many health insurance carriers are offering Medicare Advantage products in each county this year. We used population estimates for those aged 65 and over to determine the number of choices available to the older adults.

 

The results show that there is widespread availability of Medicare Advantage plans. Nearly all (99%) of older adults have access to at least one Medicare Advantage plan. Only 2% live in a county where just one carrier offers plans, and 87% can choose between Medicare Advantage plans offered by four or more carriers. Unsurprisingly, counties with more options tend to be those located in more densely populated areas.

 

The widespread availability of Medicare Advantage plans to those shopping for healthcare as individuals contrasts dramatically with the more limited choices available to those just under the age cutoff for Medicare. While there are no “bare counties” (counties with no plans) on the individual ACA market, 16% of those under age 65 live in a county where only one carrier offers plans, and only 40% can choose between plans offered by four or more carriers.

 

Medicare beneficiaries and soon-to-be beneficiaries should keep an eye on Medicare Advantage. The market is growing rapidly, and beneficiaries have a large number of options to choose from. In our next several posts, we will dig into Medicare Advantage plans’ premiums, plan designs, and networks to uncover some of the differences both between Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare and across different Medicare Advantage offerings.

Medicare Advantage plan availability by county

* About two thirds of 2019 enrollments were in individual plans that are open for general enrollment. For this post we excluded plans offered only to groups and those with special eligibility criteria.