The number of Medicare Advantage insurers has doubled over the past year, leading to expanded coverage beyond medical needs, according to a report released Wednesday from ATI Advisory. The nonmonetary benefits to recipients can help offset costs for senior living and care operators, the experts say.

For example, if a resident receives benefits for transportation, either for medical or nonmedical needs, the savings could be passed on to the provider, ATI Advisory principal Tyler Overstreet Cromer told the McKnight’s Business Daily. Forty-two states and Puerto Rico have plans offering transportation in at least one county, according to the report. A total of 375 plans nationwide offer transportation in 2022, compared with 177 plans in 2021, representing a 112% increase.

Also, Cromer said, a resident might have access through his or her Medicare Advantage plans to 20, 40 or 60 hours of personal care per month, which would be helpful at multiple stages of care. Forty-three states and Puerto Rico have plans that cover personal care, and 729 plans nationwide offer in-home care, compared with 429 plans in 2021, representing a 70% increase.

The nonmonetary benefits really only have been available for the past three years, ATI Advisory analyst Elexa Rallos told the McKnight’s Business Daily. Before 2019, Medicare Advantage plans could provide additional benefits over the base Medicare benefits, but those benefits had to be primarily for healthcare-related expenses and availability universally across all plans.

“We’ve seen remarkable growth in 2020 and 2021, and we continue to see growth into 2022,” Rallos said. 

With more Medicare Advantage plans on the market, Rallos said it’s fair to say that competition has driven the expansion of benefits among plan offerings. There also is broader geographic availability of Medicare Advantage plans, Cromer added. Barring any policy change at the federal level, Cromer said she expects the trend to continue.

“The dollars for these benefits are limited, and so you’re not going to see Medicaid-like benefits, You’re going to see much more targeted benefits,” Cromer said.

Not all benefits are available in all markets across the country, Rallos added.

“Each benefit is really a plan-by-plan decision. Each plan decides what benefits to offer,” she said. “They’re all optional. While we see much broader geographic availability this year than we saw in 2020, there’s still some gaps on the map.”

More benefits are available in more densely populated areas, and the eastern states tend to have more offerings than areas such as Wyoming or the Dakotas, Rallos added.