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As Medicare’s Open Enrollment Nears, New Analyses Highlight Key Changes in Medicare Advantage and Part D Plans for 2015

With Medicare’s 2015 open enrollment set to begin Oct. 15, two new analyses from the Kaiser Family Foundation find modest change in the total number of private Medicare Advantage plans available for 2015, and the fewest Part D prescription drug plans nationwide since the start of the drug benefit in 2006. As in previous years, changes in Medicare Advantage and Part D plan availability, premiums, cost-sharing and benefits could require some beneficiaries to find alternative coverage and lead others to pay more if they continue with their existing coverage.

What’s In and What’s Out? Medicare Advantage Market Entries and Exits for 2015 finds a total of 1,945 Medicare Advantage plans will be available for general enrollment in 2015, with 378 plans exiting markets by the end of 2014 and 309 new plans entering markets in 2015. The departure of Medicare Advantage plans is expected to affect about 480,000 Medicare Advantage enrollees, somewhat fewer than last year, when about 526,000 beneficiaries were affected by plan withdrawals.*

Medicare Part D:  A First Look at Plan Offerings in 2015 takes a comprehensive look at the Part D marketplace for 2015, with national and state-level data on plan availability, premiums, and benefits. Nationwide, there will be 1,001 stand-alone Part D prescription drug plans available in 2015. Despite fewer plans, Medicare beneficiaries in each region will have 30 stand-alone drug plans to choose from, on average, in 2015.

The Part D analysis finds the average monthly premium (weighted by 2014 plan enrollment) is expected to increase by 4 percent, from $37.27 in 2014 to $38.83 in 2015, with significant variation across plans. 

Medicare’s annual enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. During this time, beneficiaries are able to choose or change Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans, as well as move between traditional Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan. Earlier Foundation research finds relatively few Medicare beneficiaries revisit their plan options each year despite recommendations from Medicare and various consumer groups.

* This sentence was updated Oct. 23 to reflect revised data in the report.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.