by Carina Belles

Medicare Advantage organizations are continuing to embrace flexible benefits, with the number of plans offering Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill (SSBCI) exploding from 245 in 2020 to 831 in 2021, according to a Jan. 27 analysis of CMS data from Faegre Drinker. While the pandemic is just one factor driving the increase, the prevalence of certain benefits points to more seniors seeking help from home. Of the new benefits approved for 2021, virtual companion visits are offered by 62 plans. There was also a sharp uptick in the number of plans offering pre-made meals (up 228% from 2020) and food and produce delivery (up 242%). While diabetes and congestive heart failure remain the most commonly targeted conditions, mental health disorders took the No. 3 spot in 2021, with 230 MA plans offering benefits related to anxiety, depression and substance use disorder, compared to zero plans in 2020. Faegre’s researchers tell AIS Health this is likely related to the surge in demand for behavioral health services amid the pandemic.

NOTES: CAD=Coronary Artery Disease; CHF=Congestive Heart Failure; COPD=Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; SUD=Substance Use Disorder.

SOURCE: An Early Look at 2021 Medicare Advantage Benefits: Part II, Faegre Drinker analysis of CMS data, Jan. 27, 2021. Visit