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Few People Switch Medicare Advantage Plans Each Year, Raising Questions About Whether Seniors Have the Tools and Information They Need To Compare Plans  

A small share of Medicare Advantage enrollees switch plans each year, but those who do tend to pick plans with lower premiums and out-of-pocket limits than the plans they left behind, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Eleven percent of enrollees voluntarily switched from one Medicare Advantage plan to another between 2013 and 2014, the analysis finds, while another four percent were forced to change because their Medicare Advantage plan exited the marketplace. Looked at another way, roughly 8 in 10 enrollees stayed in the same plan from one year to the next – a share that has remained fairly steady since 2007.

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The relatively small share of Medicare Advantage enrollees to change plans – what some policy experts call “stickiness” – mirrors earlier research about Medicare prescription drug plan enrollees. (In contrast, 43 percent of Affordable Care Act marketplace enrollees switched plans between 2015 and 2016.)

Medicare Advantage enrollees who switch plans reap some benefits by shifting to plans with lower average premiums ($17.51 per month lower, on average) and lower out-of-pocket limits ($401 lower, on average) than they would have paid had they remained in the same plan.

These findings and previous research underscore the importance of tools and support to help beneficiaries choose plans that are most likely to meet their individual needs. Efforts that aim to make it easier for Medicare beneficiaries to evaluate their options could possibly increase competition among plans and improve beneficiaries’ satisfaction with their coverage.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Headquarters: 2400 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270

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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.