By Lauren Flynn Kelly

2020 is shaping up to be another competitive year for the Medicare Advantage program, which will feature an additional 600 plan choices and a continued decline in the average monthly premium. With its annual release of the so-called landscape files for the MA and Part D programs, CMS on Sept. 24 said it expects MA enrollment to reach an all-time high of 24.4 million in 2020, up 10% from the current enrollment of 22.2 million.

For 2020, the average monthly MA plan premium will drop by 14% to an estimated $23, the lowest average monthly premium since 2007. As the Affordable Care Act health insurer fee (HIF) returns in 2020, CMS’s bullish enrollment outlook “indicates most plans are prioritizing stability of benefits and enrollment,” observed securities analyst Michael Newshel in a Sept. 24 research note from Evercore ISI.

According to data released alongside the 2020 MA and Part D landscape files, beneficiaries will have an average number of 39 plan choices per county, CMS estimated. Moreover, CMS said there are about 1,200 more MA plans operating in 2020 than in 2018.

According to estimates from Citi Research, there will also be a substantial rise in the number of plans with a $0 monthly premium, with Centene Corp. showing the greatest increase (56%) in $0 premium offerings.

Meanwhile, the Special Needs Plan (SNP) market will continue to expand. According to estimates from Chicago-based consulting firm Clear View Solutions, LLC, there are 171 net new SNP plan IDs, up from 60 net new plans in 2019. In addition, the number of stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan offerings will rise from 1,369 in 2019 to 1,433 next year.

Medicare beneficiaries may begin perusing their 2020 coverage options on Oct. 1. Open enrollment begins on Oct. 15 and ends on Dec. 7.