Medicare Advantage, Part D Voluntary Switches Low During Open Enrollment

December 5, 2019

Initial enrollment stability remains relatively consistent since 2007.

A relatively small share of people with Medicare Advantage or stand-alone Medicare Part D (MA-PD) prescription drug coverage voluntarily switch plans during Medicare’s open enrollment period, which runs annually from October 15 to December 7, according to a new KFF analysis.

“Overall, a small share of MA-PD and PDP [prescription drug plan] enrollees without low-income subsidies [8% and 10%, respectively], voluntarily switched to another plan during the 2016 annual open enrollment period for the 2017 plan year,” says Wyatt Koma, the lead author of the analysis. “This is consistent with prior years: during each of the annual open enrollment periods since 2007, most Medicare private plan enrollees did not voluntarily switch plans.”

For healthcare executives, the findings underscore the significance of the initial enrollment of people in private plans, given that the overwhelming majority of Medicare beneficiaries do not voluntarily switch plans during open enrollment, according to Koma.

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“In other words, insurers can expect a fair amount of stability in these Medicare markets,” he says. “The main message is that most Medicare private plan enrollees-both MA-PD and PDP- do not voluntarily switch plans during open enrollment for the following year, and this finding has been relatively consistent since 2007. This is contrary to the view that people on Medicare will compare plans annually to select the plan that best meets their individual needs.”

The analysis looked at the most current year of the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey to better understand barriers people with Medicare may experience while comparing plans. In 2017, more than one in three (35%) Medicare beneficiaries said they find it very or somewhat difficult to compare Medicare options, and nearly half (45%) said they rarely or never review or compare their Medicare options.

As some presidential candidates and policy makers discuss proposals to build on Medicare and the marketplace model, understanding how well the current system works is as important as ever.” Koma says.