Big Health Insurers Will Expand Medicare Advantage To Hundreds Of New Counties For 2023

Health insurance companies that are big players in Medicare Advantage, including Humana, Cigna, CVS Health’s Aetna unit, Elevance Health and UnitedHealth Group are launching popular plans in several new states and hundreds of new counties for 2023.

Aetna, which is in 1,875 counties and 46 states plus Washington, D.C. with 3.2 million Medicare Advantage enrollees today is expanding to 2,014 counties and 46 states plus Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, the UnitedHealthcare health insurance unit of UnitedHealth Group, says its “total individual MA footprint will grow by 184 counties – from 2,629 counties in 2022 to 2,798 counties in 2023 – across 49 states and the District of Columbia.” Elevance Health, formerly Anthem, said its affiliated plans are available in 732 counties in 24 states and Puerto Rico. “The company has more than 1.6 million Medicare Advantage enrollees and is expanding to include 210 new counties for next year,” an Elevance Health spokesman said.

Cigna said it will grow its Medicare Advantage “geographic footprint” for 2023 by 22%. Cigna, which is in 477 counties in 26 states and Washington, D.C., with more than 500,000 Medicare Advantage enrollees, is expanding and will be offered in 581 counties in 28 states and Washington, D.C. for next year.

And Humana will launch plans in two states and 140 new counties for 2023. With the expansion, Humana said its wide array of Medicare Advantage plans, which include health maintenance organizations and preferred provider organizations, can be accessed in 91% of the U.S. UnitedHealthcare is expanding “its service area to reach 95% of Medicare consumers nationwide.”

“More than 8.2 million people are currently enrolled in UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans, and more than a third of all Medicare Advantage enrollment growth over the past five years, including 2022, has been through UnitedHealthcare,” the health insurer said.

All of this market growth is a sharp contrast from a few years ago when Medicare Advantage was unavailable in large swaths of the country.

But the program is one of the few areas of healthcare and U.S. policy in general that has bipartisan support in Congress.

Medicare Advantage plans contract with the federal government to provide extra benefits and services to seniors, such as disease management and nurse help hotlines with some also offering vision, dental care and wellness programs. And in recent years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has allowed Medicare Advantage plans to cover more supplemental benefits, adding to their popularity among seniors.

Across the country, health insurers have escalated expansions into new areas, pushing Medicare Advantage enrollment to record highs. Medicare Advantage plans added more than 2 million beneficiaries for this 2022 coverage year, boosting the program to 45% of all Medicare enrollment, according to a study earlier this year by The Chartis Group.

The more established health insurers like Cigna, Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Elevance Health are more recently running into competition with regional Medicare Advantage plans and startups have been offering Medicare Advantage.

To better compete, the bigger plans are spending huge amounts to bolster their benefit offerings and provider networks. Humana, for example, earlier this year launched a $1 billion “Project Growth” initiative to strengthen its Medicare Advantage plans for 2023.

With the expansions, Humana Medicare Advantage plans will be in 49 U.S. states plus Puerto Rico and 2,877 counties. That compares with 47 U.S. States and Puerto Rico and a total of 2,737 counties.

Humana said its 2023 offerings — which will be listed along with other plans during open enrollment that begins Oct. 15 and lasts until Dec. 7 — will include “$0 premiums, dental and Rx benefit enhancements, new allowances, a USAA co-branded plan, and simplified access to prescriptions offer more options for beneficiaries.”

“When you sum up what Humana is offering this year, it’s as simple as this: Our members spoke, and we listened,” said George Renaudin, Medicare President for Humana. “We conducted extensive research to ensure our changes align with consumer wants and needs. This research resulted in investments focused on what consumers want, like dental coverage, which is consistently a #1 priority in supplemental benefits for our members.”

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