The new report notes a dramatic increase in the number of Medicare Advantage (MA) beneficiaries who have access to additional supplemental benefits to individuals with chronic illnesses in 2021. Last year a little more than one million MA members were enrolled in plans offering the chronic care benefits. That number grew to more than three million in 2021.

The Avalere research, released on Friday, is based on the second quarter of 2021 and 2020 Plan Benefit Package files from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the January 2021 and January 2020 enrollment Public Use Files. The assessment of supplemental benefits reflects non-employer waiver group plans nationwide with at least 11 enrollees.

The report finds that 787 MA plans or 16 percent of the 4,918 analyzed plans provide special supplemental benefits for the chronically ill (SSBCI) in 2021. More than three million MA members are enrolled in these plans compared to 2020 when slightly more than one million people were enrolled in plans that offered additional supplemental benefits to individuals with chronic illnesses.

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The most common benefits offered are:

  • Meals (offered by 45 percent of plans)
  • Food and produce (offered by 43 percent of plans)
  • Pest control (offered by 25 percent of plans)

Avalere researchers note that in the wake of COVID-19, a few plans are also offering new benefits in 2021, such as grocery and prescription delivery. “As plans test the impact of different benefits, new plans may decide to invest in providing SSBCI in future years,” the study says. “Stakeholders should consider engaging with the Biden administration around their early experiences with SSBCI and any policy change that could facilitate their wider adoption.”