Major health insurers will expand Medicare Advantage to hundreds of new counties by 2023.

Health insurers 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 by 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, UnitedHealth Group’s UnitedHealthcare unit says its “total MA individual 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 next year,” an Elevance Health spokesperson said.

Cigna said it will increase its Medicare Advantage “geographic footprint” by 22% in 2023. 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 next year.

And Humana will launch plans in two states and 140 new counties by 2023. With the expansion, Humana said its broad array of Medicare Advantage plans, which include health maintenance organizations and preferred provider organizations, will be available in 91 % of UnitedHealthcare in the US 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 one-third of all Medicare Advantage enrollment growth over the past five years, including 2022, is through UnitedHealthcare,” the health insurer said.

All this market growth is a stark contrast from a few years ago, when Medicare Advantage was not available in large parts of the country.

But the program is one of the few areas of U.S. health care and policy overall that has bipartisan support in Congress.

Medicare Advantage plans contract with the federal government to provide seniors with additional benefits and services, such as disease management and nurse hotlines, and some also offer 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, increasing 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 the 2022 coverage year, boosting the program to 45 percent of all Medicare enrollees, according to a study earlier this year by The Chartis Group.

More established health insurers such as Cigna, Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Elevance Health have recently been competing with regional Medicare Advantage plans, and startups are offering Medicare Advantage.

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

With the expansions, Humana Medicare Advantage plans will be in 49 US states plus Puerto Rico and 2,877 counties. This compares to 47 US states and Puerto Rico and a total of 2,737 counties.

Humana said its 2023 offerings — which will be listed with other plans during open enrollment, which begins Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7 — will include “$0 premiums, improvements to dental and Rx benefits , new benefits, a co-branded USAA 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, president of Medicare for Humana. “We’ve done extensive research to ensure our changes are in line with users’ wants and needs. This research has led to investments focused on what consumers want, such as dental coverage, which is consistently the #1 priority in fringe benefits for our members.”

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