Medicare Advantage is redefining what we consider to be health insurance, and more and more retailers are trying to grab a corner of the Medicare Advantage market. The most recent retailers attempting to claim their foothold in the healthcare industry are Walmart and Amazon.
Retailers and Medicare Advantage
Walmart is partnering with Anthem (operator of Blue Cross Blue Shield in 14 states) to give Medicare Advantage enrollees better access to over-the-counter (OTC) medications and personal medical devices. Starting January 2019, Medicare Advantage enrollees using Anthem plans can use the insurer’s “over-the-counter plan allowance” to purchase OTC drugs and medical devices like first aid supplies and supportive braces. Roughly 40 percent of OTC drugs are used by seniors, so the goal is to make these drugs cheaper for people who use them most.
This move rivals Amazon, another retail giant trying to move into the healthcare industry. Earlier this year, Amazon purchased the online pharmacy PillPack and launched its own brand of OTC drugs called Basic Care. However, Walmart’s move to partner with Anthem has been deemed more successful because Medicare Advantage enrollees with Anthem plans can purchase OTC drugs and medical items at any of Walmart’s 4,700 stores or online at Walmart.com.
Medicare Advantage expansion
About 35 percent of Medicare enrollees have a Medicare Advantage plan. That’s roughly 20 million people. By the year 2025, Medicare Advantage is expected to reach 50 percent market penetration, making up half of all Medicare enrollments. With around 100,000 people aging into Medicare every day, Medicare Advantage is growing and expanding its definition of healthcare thanks to approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Many Medicare Advantage plans already offer coverage for things not covered by Original Medicare, like hearing, dental, and vision care. But starting in 2019, Medicare Advantage plans may start offering things like non-emergency medical transportation and even healthy groceries for qualified enrollees. The goal of this expansion is to keep enrollees healthy and independent longer.