Personal Finance

10 states where Medicare Advantage will be the cheapest in 2019

Key Points
  • Medicare Advantage plans, which are offered by private insurance companies, include coverage for hospital visits and doctors’ appointments.
  • Individuals shopping for a private Medicare plan will find the most affordable plans in Nevada: The total average annual cost is $4,678.
Simon Webb and Duncan Nicholls | OJO Images | Getty Images

Come to Nevada for the roulette tables. Stay for the affordable retiree health insurance.

That's because the Silver State is home to the lowest Medicare Advantage costs for the 2019 plan year, according to an analysis by HealthMarkets Insurance Agency. The firm studied cost data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

You might know "original Medicare." It consists of two parts: Part A covers care received in a hospital and Part B covers doctors' services and medical supplies.

Medicare Advantage or Part C, is a private plan that provides Part A and Part B benefits, and often prescription drug coverage as well.

See below for the top 10 states with the lowest Medicare Advantage annual costs, according to HealthMarkets.

During open enrollment season — Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 — enrollees can swap from Medicare Advantage to original Medicare.

They can also trade from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or go from one Medicare Advantage to another.

Things are about to get a little cheaper year-over-year for Medicare Advantage enrollees.

"On a total cost basis, which includes max out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles and premiums nationwide, it's down about 3 percent," said Michael Z. Stahl, chief marketing officer at HealthMarkets.

Here's what you need to know.

Cost drivers

About 19 million people were enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans in 2017, accounting for 33 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In particular, Medicare Advantage annual premiums year-over-year are down by about $185 on average, nationwide, Stahl said.

One reason could be related to a one-year reprieve of a health insurance tax on insurers, created by the Affordable Care Act, and designed to help fund federal and state insurance marketplace exchanges.

The levy is expected to cost insurers $16 billion in 2020, once the tax is back in effect, according to Oliver Wyman.

What you should know

sturti | E+ | Getty Images

As you shop around for coverage, be aware that premiums for your Medicare Advantage plan only tell part of the story.

Be cognizant of your plan's out-of-pocket maximums, deductibles — spending limits you must hit before your insurer begins to cover costs — as well as any copayments and coinsurance you need to pay for.

You should also understand whether your preferred doctors and hospitals are in-network. You could be on the hook for higher costs if you select a provider who is out-of-network.

"There are plans with small premiums every month, but that could be worthwhile because they have low out-of-pocket costs and the conditions you have are such that it's worth it," said Stahl.

"Consumers should make sure they shop around this year," he said.

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