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Big Health Insurers Expand Medicare Advantage To Even More Markets For 2024 Coverage

Health insurance companies that are the biggest players in privatized Medicare Advantage coverarge, including Cigna, CVS Health’s Aetna, Elevance Health, Humana and UnitedHealth Group are launching plans in scores of new counties for 2024.

With more than half of the nation’s eligible seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, competition continues to intensify with insurers bolstering their benefit offerings and expanding their medical care provider networks in new regions so they can expand.

“With affordability, stability and value top of mind, we expanded many of the most popular benefits to every single plan we offer, regardless of where the member lives,” Humana’s President of Medicare and Medicaid, George Renaudin, said.

Humana said its 2024 offerings — which will be listed along with other plans during open enrollment that begins Oct. 15 and lasts until Dec. 7 — will include “dental, vision and hearing coverage,” prescription drug coverage and myriad services and products for $0 co-pays.

Humana, which has for decades now been a big provider of privatized Medicare coverage, will offer Medicare Advantage for 2024 in 94% of U.S. counties, up 1.2 percent over 2023. Today, Humana has more than 5.7 million seniors in its Medicare Advantage plans in 49 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico in 2023 and will continue to be in these areas for 2024.

Meanwhile, Aetna, which is in 2,014 counties and 46 states plus Washington, D.C. now with 3.4 million Medicare Advantage enrollees today is expanding to 2,269 counties in the 46 states plus Washington, D.C. where seniors are covered by such MA plans. And Cigna, which is in 581 counties in 28 states and Washington, D.C., with more than 598,000 Medicare Advantage enrollees, is expanding to 603 counties in 29 states and Washington, D.C. for next year in growth that includes a first-time entry into Nevada serving the Las Vegas metro area in Clark and Nye counties.

And UnitedHealth Group’s UnitedHealthcare health insurance unit said its “total individual MA footprint will grow by 62 counties – from 2,798 counties in 2023 to 2,855 counties in 2024 – across 49 states and the District of Columbia.” Meanwhile, Elevance Health, which has a Medicare service area that includes 22 states and Puerto Rico, is enhancing products and expanding into 91 new counties.

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.

“UnitedHealthcare will expand its coverage area and reach 96% of all Medicare consumers with benefits designed to meet the broad needs of individuals nationwide,” the health insurer said.

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 a record high this year of 30.8 million. Medicare Advantage plans added more than 2 million beneficiaries for this 2023 coverage year, boosting the program to 51% of all Medicare enrollment, according to an analysis by KFF.

An array of startups and regional plans including Alignment Healthcare, Oscar Health and various Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans have also expanded into new markets, pressuring the bigger plans to offer $0 co-pay plans, around-the-clock access to physicians and nurses via telehealth and other benefits.

“Our experience shows Medicare consumers want more than just a one-size-fits-all approach to health care,” said Terri Swanson, president of Aetna Medicare. “They want personalized plans that fit their unique needs and budgets, and flexible benefits that matter most to them. ”

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