The number of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries receiving Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill (SSBCI) has skyrocketed — from 1 million in 2020 to 3 million in 2021— according to a new report by healthcare consulting firm Avalere. This, says Avalere, indicates that plans are gaining more insight into the impact that such benefits can have on beneficiary outcomes and costs.

In addition to the most common SSBCI offerings — namely meals, food and produce, and pest control — new offerings in 2021 include grocery and prescription delivery. Such benefits are particularly helpful to older adults living at home during the pandemic — and provide a boon to MA enrollment.

Supplemental benefits are additional services offered by MA plans that are not covered under Medicare Part A, Part B, or Part D. Starting in 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services allowed plans, for the first time, to target non-primarily health-related supplemental benefits to beneficiaries with chronic illnesses. This gave MA plans more flexibility to address social determinants of health, or those social and environmental factors that may impact beneficiary health. 

The report shows that the 787 MA plans offered by 44 parent organizations provide SSBCI benefits. These represent 16% of all analyzed MA plans. A majority (86%) of the total Medicare beneficiary population live in counties where at least 1 MA plan that offers at least 1 type of SSBCI is available.