The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Wednesday that the average premium for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans will be $19 per month in 2022. The agency also projects enrollment in MA plans to spike to 29.5 million people in the upcoming year.

Average MA premiums will drop slightly in 2022 but the cost for Part D coverage will go up, according to CMS.

The federal agency on Wednesday released information on 2022 premiums and deductibles for MA and Part D prescription drug plans in advance of Medicare Open Enrollment, which begins on Oct. 15 and ends on Dec. 7. During this time, people eligible for Medicare can compare 2022 coverage options offered by Original Medicare, MA, and Part D prescription drug plans.

On average, MA plan premiums will be lower in 2022 at $19 per month, compared to $21.22 in 2021. The average 2022 premium for Part D coverage will be $33 per month, compared to $31.47 in 2021.

The agency expects enrollment in MA plans to reach 29.5 million in 2022. This year, 26.9 million seniors enrolled in a MA plan. One reason for the increase in enrollment is due to the wide range of supplemental benefits being offered by MA plans in 2022. Those benefits include eyewear, hearing aids, preventive and comprehensive dental benefits, access to meals (for a limited duration), over-the-counter items, fitness benefits and worldwide emergency/urgent coverage. In addition, the percentage of plans offering special supplemental benefits for chronically ill individuals will increase from 19 percent to 25 percent.

CMS also said there will be an increase in the number of MA dual eligible special needs plans that cover both Medicare and Medicaid services for people who are dually eligible. Next year, there will be 295 plans (compared to 256 in 2021) that will cover all Medicare services, plus Medicaid-covered behavioral health treatment or long-term services and supports.

The agency said it will continue to test the Part D Senior Savings Model in more than 2,100 plans in 2022, increasing access and affordability to select insulins for seniors. More than 500 new MA and Part D prescription drug plans, and two new pharmaceutical manufacturers of insulin, are joining the model in the upcoming year to provide even more opportunities for eligible seniors to reduce their out-of-pocket spending on insulin.

In addition, more than 1,000 MA plans will participate in the CMS Innovation Center’s MA Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) Model in 2022, which tests the effect of offering a projected 3.7 million people customized benefits that are designed to better manage their disease(s) and meet a wide range of social needs from food insecurity to social isolation. The VBID Model’s Hospice Benefit Component, now in its second year, will also be offered by 115 MA plans in portions of 22 states and U.S. territories and provides enrollees increased access to palliative and integrated hospice care.

The MA premium announcement came as welcome news to the Better Medicare Alliance (BMA), a leading research and advocacy organization that supports MA plans. In a statement, Mary Beth Donahue, president and CEO, said the average monthly premiums for MA plans is the lowest in 15 years.

More than half of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries live below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, as compared to 39 percent in FFS Medicare,” she said. “Today’s CMS announcement shows how Medicare Advantage continues working to maintain low costs and robust benefits for those it serves. This is welcome news for the 29.5 million Americans who will entrust their care to Medicare Advantage in the year ahead.”