A new independent study finds that Medicare Advantage plans are incorporating new benefits in 2020 to care for the whole person and address social determinants of health.

A new report by the actuarial consulting firm, Milliman, finds that Medicare Advantage plans continue to expand their supplemental benefits offerings for 2020.

The study, commissioned by the Better Medicare Alliance, finds that since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) reinterpreted “primarily health-related” benefits, many Medicare Advantage plans will offer adult day care services for the first time in 2020. Furthermore, benefits like therapeutic massage as a non-opioid pain management alternative increased more than eight-fold. Twenty-two plans in 2019 offered these types of benefits compared to 192 plans in 2020.

CMS issued guidance in 2018 and this year that expanded the type of supplemental benefits that Medicare Advantage plans are now permitted to offer. The new set of benefits that plans can offer include adult day care services, home-based palliative care, in-home support services, support for caregivers of enrollees, and therapeutic massage. None of the plans offered these plans in 2019 but the Milliman research found that 116 plans will offer more than one of these services in 2020.

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The figure below, courtesy of Milliman, depicts how supplemental benefits have rapidly expanded for the year ahead:

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 “The growth in supplemental benefits across Medicare Advantage plans as compared to 2019 tells a remarkable story of how plans are finding new ways to care for the whole person and address social determinants of health,” said Allyson Y. Schwartz, president and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance, in an announcement“These benefits not available in Traditional Medicare help enrollees to safely remain in their own homes, avoid social isolation, and lead longer, healthier lives.  We are committed to ensuring that the 24 million Americans expected to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan next year–and those who will come behind them–have access to the low-cost, quality care, and enhanced benefits that Medicare Advantage provides.”

The Milliman analysis doesn’t include the full picture of benefits being offered in 2020 as CMS has not yet released the files related to the uniformity requirement reinterpretation and special supplemental benefits for the chronically ill changes.

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Last year, the most popular supplemental benefits were eyewear and over-the-counter pharmacy allowance, according to Deft Research’s 2019 Medicare Shopping and Switching Study. Deft Researchers surveyed 3,554 seniors who either had a 2018 Medicare Advantage plan, a 2018 MedSupp plan, or an original Medicare only plan for 2018. Nearly half of Medicare Advantage members surveyed said they would be more likely to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan if it offered annual eyewear coverage. Close to two-thirds of Medicare Advantage members also said transportation benefits would influence, to some degree, their likelihood to switch plans. But the most popular combination of potential supplemental benefits that would entice the largest proportion of Medicare Advantage seniors to switch plans was a three-benefit package that included an eyewear allowance, gym benefit, and over-the-counter pharmacy allowance.