Medicare Advantage Supplemental Benefit Flexibilities: An Early Assessment of Adoption and Policy Opportunities for Expanded Access

Narda Ipakchi
Mary Hsieh
Sarah Barth
Jonathan Blum
January 2021


This issue brief examines the early implementation of Medicare Advantage (MA) expanded supplemental benefits, along with policy considerations to promote plan adoption and beneficiary access to these benefits.


In recent years, Congress and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have granted MA plans new flexibilities to offer supplemental benefits. The new flexible options are designed to deliver benefits more effectively for individuals who are frail, medically complex, and have unmet health and social needs. Very few MA plans, however, offered new flexible benefits in 2020. The authors of this brief interviewed MA plans, beneficiary advocates, and supplemental benefit providers to identify what has influenced implementation to date.


MA organizations experimented with new flexible benefits in 2020, but many of these plans are seeking more data on the effectiveness of flexible benefits. To encourage further adoption of flexible benefits by MA plans, and greater beneficiary access to these benefits, this brief proposes policy considerations such as: (1) collecting and disseminating evidence; (2) simplifying the number of flexibilities; and (3) expanding eligibility for benefits beyond clinical criteria.


These findings are valuable for policymakers who are seeking to understand the barriers to adoption of flexible MA benefits and what policy options are available to address these barriers.  

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