How Competitive is Your Medicare Advantage Plan?

A small number of insurers dominate Medicare Advantage enrollment, study finds.


A small number of insurers account for a large share of Medicare Advantage enrollment, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation report. The average Medicare beneficiary has 33 Medicare Advantage plans to choose from in 2010. But in 14 states and Washington, D.C. a single firm enrolls more than half of all Medicare Advantage participants.

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One third of all Medicare Advantage enrollees in 2010 are in plans affiliated with two firms: UnitedHealthcare (18 percent) and Humana (15 percent). Other insurers with a large market share include Blue Cross/Blue Shield affiliates (15 percent), Kaiser Permanente (9 percent), and Aetna (4 percent).

“The market is very concentrated and a few firms are responsible for plans that include a very large share of enrollees,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation report. “This dominance may allow them disproportionate influence over the Medicare Advantage market.”

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Medicare Advantage plans are subsidized by the government and generally offer extra benefits or lower premiums than traditional Medicare. The health care reform legislation will gradually reduce payments to private insurers, which is expected to eventually impact premium prices and benefits provided.

The average enrollee paid a monthly premium of $44 per month, up 22 percent from $36 in 2009. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Medicare Advantage recipients signed up for HMOs in 2010.

[See How to Pick the Best Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan.]

Medicare Advantage enrollment increased 5.7 percent in 2010. But the 11.1 million beneficiaries had fewer choices. The total number of Medicare Advantage plans declined by 18 percent this year.