Medicare Advantage plan documents sitting on a table
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The rise in Medicare Advantage plans offering nonmedical supplemental benefits this year is good news to the long-term care industry because it allows more seniors to access additional services, according to an expert with ATI Advisory. 

New findings from the Washington D.C.-based advisory firm show 1,300 Medicare Advantage plans are providing nonmedical supplemental benefits this year — a 40% increase from the 920 plans that offered such benefits in 2021. 

“These non-medical services represent a way for Medicare enrollees, including those in long-term care, to access additional, critical services that we know impact health,” Tyler Overstreet Cromer, analysis author and ATI Advisory principal, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Thursday. “Moreover, key SSBCI benefits could provide valuable supports to residents of long-term care.” 

For example, she explained that the social needs benefits will mean more access to programming and companionship to avoid social isolation for long-term care residents. 

“These and other benefits have seen substantial growth over time as plans find ways to better meet the non-medical needs of their enrollees,” Cromer said. 

McKnight’s Home Care first reported the analysis’ findings last week. Specifically, the firm found “significant growth” this year in plans that help seniors age in place, including benefits for food and meals, transportation, social needs and general supports.

“As for these benefits’ impact on the long-term care industry, non-medical supplemental benefits, particularly Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill (SSBCI), are becoming increasingly important as they’re becoming a growing part of the Medicare Advantage landscape,” Cromer said. 

“For 2022, we’re seeing continued growth in these benefits, since SSBCI was first introduced in 2020, to now nearly a quarter of all plans offering at least 1 SSBCI. We expect to continue to see growth in the number of MA plans, and MA organizations or insurers, offering these benefits over time,” she added. 

Cromer explained that while the dollars available to fund these benefits are limited, these benefits are significant because they allow the Medicare program, for the first time, to offer non-medical benefits through Medicare Advantage.