Fitness trackers, free hospital rides: How Medicare Advantage insurers lure members

In Minnesota, a new federal law will force more than 300,000 people to switch Medicare coverage for 2019. As open enrollment continues, several Medicare Advantage health plans sold by large private insurers are offering benefits like free meals and hospital rides to entice members, according to the Star Tribune.

Here are five things to know:

1. The law, which will eliminate Medicare Cost plans across 66 Minnesota counties, will leave affected members with a choice of enrolling in original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.

2. Affected Medicare members, who are included in the roughly 1 million Medicare beneficiaries in Minnesota, have until Dec. 7 to a select a new plan. One plan, a joint venture policy led by Minneapolis-based Allina Health and Aetna, is offering Medicare Advantage beneficiaries 14 home-delivered meals during a week post-inpatient discharge, according to the Star Tribune.

3. Another privately managed Medicare Advantage plan, Humana, will cover 12 one-way trips to providers of up to 25 miles each. The transportation benefit is effective for 2019.

4. UnitedHealthcare will also offer a health plan gifting members a smartwatch they can use to track activity. The 2019 plan year will mark UnitedHealthcare's debut in the state's Medicare Advantage market, according to the report.

5. While the benefits may intrigue potential enrollees, some advocates are encouraging potential new members to ensure they understand network limits and out-of-pocket spending requirements that often come with Medicare Advantage plans. David Lipschutz, senior policy attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Medicare Advocacy, told the publication: "These extras can provide access to things that can be really helpful for people and things that they otherwise would not have access to. However, our caution is, do not let your choice of plan be governed by what extras you may or may not be entitled to by virtue of enrollment."

More articles on payers:
How the 'big 5' payers fared in Q3
UnitedHealth, Centene poised for gains after 3 states expand Medicaid
Change Healthcare releases blockchain-based 'smart contracts' for payers

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