- More than 22% of residents are enrolled in Medicare in Delaware.
- Only 30% of Delaware Medicare beneficiaries select Medicare Advantage plans (versus 48% nationwide).
- Residents in Delaware can select from 33 Medicare Advantage plans in 2023.
- Delaware law protects access to Medigap plans for enrollees under age 65. But premiums are higher for those under 65, and drastically higher for under-65 enrollees who have end-stage renal disease.
- More than half of Delaware Medicare beneficiaries have stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription coverage.
How high is Medicare enrollment in Delaware?
As of March 2023, there were 233,365 people enrolled in Medicare in Delaware. That’s more than 22% of the state’s total population, compared with about 19% of the United States population enrolled in Medicare.
Delaware is in the top ten states in the US in terms of the percentage of elderly residents. Although Medicare enrollment in Delaware covers both aged and disabled populations (including people with ALS or end-stage renal disease), 90% of Medicare beneficiaries in Delaware are eligible due to being at least 65 years old, versus just 10% who are eligible due to a disability.
Medicare beneficiaries can choose among several options to access Medicare coverage. The first choice is between Medicare Advantage plans, where coverage is provided by private insurers, or Original Medicare, where coverage is paid for directly by the federal government. Medicare beneficiaries also have options around Medigap policies and Medicare Part D (prescription drug) coverage.
Original Medicare includes Part A (also called hospital insurance, which helps pay for inpatient stays, like at hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, or hospice centers) and Part B (also called medical insurance, which helps pay for outpatient care like doctor appointments or a preventive healthcare services, such as most vaccinations).
Medicare Advantage plans bundle Parts A and B under a single monthly premium and often include other services like prescription drug and vision coverage. There are pros and cons to either option, and the “right” solution is different for each individual.
Medicare Advantage in Delaware
By March 2023, there were 69,483 Delaware Medicare beneficiaries with Advantage coverage, which was about 30% of the state’s total Medicare population.
Nationwide, about 48% of Medicare beneficiaries had Medicare Advantage coverage at that point. Medicare Advantage enrollment has been increasing steadily since the early 2000s, but Original Medicare remains much more popular in Delaware than it does in many other states, with roughly seven out of ten Delaware Medicare beneficiaries opting for Original Medicare.
While most eligible Medicare beneficiaries opt into Original Medicare, there is widespread availability of Medicare Advantage plans in Delaware, and residents can choose from among 33 different Medicare Advantage plans for 2023 (offered by five different insurers).
Medicare Advantage enrollment is available when people are first eligible for Medicare benefits, and also during the annual open enrollment period in the fall (October 15 to December 7). During the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period (January 1 to March 31) people who are already enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans can change Medicare Advantage plans or switch to Original Medicare.
Medigap in Delaware
Medigap plans are used to supplement Original Medicare, covering some or all of the out-of-pocket costs (for coinsurance and deductibles) that people would otherwise incur if they only had Original Medicare on its own.
Medigap plans are standardized under federal rules, and people are granted a six-month window, when they turn 65 and enroll in Original Medicare, during which coverage is guaranteed issue for Medigap plans. But federal rules do not guarantee access to a Medigap plan if you’re under 65 and eligible for Medicare as a result of a disability. States can set their own rules, however, and Delaware enacted a law in 2013 that grants a six-month guaranteed issue window for Medigap when people become eligible for Medicare as a result of a disability.
Under the terms of the legislation, Medigap insurers in Delaware that sell plans to people who are 65+ must make all of their plans available to people who are under 65 and enrolled in Medicare due to a disability. But the legislation allows insurers to charge higher premiums for people under age 65, and specifically prohibits insurers from increasing premiums for the 65+ population in order to cover the additional risk involved in providing coverage for disabled Medicare beneficiaries. The legislation requires insurers to have two separate risk pools (and thus separate pricing) for under-65 enrollees who are eligible due to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) versus under-65 enrollees who are eligible due to all other disabling conditions.
But due to this provision, Medigap premiums are dramatically higher for under-65 Delaware residents with ESRD. In many cases, premiums for an under-65 enrollee with ESRD exceed $20,000 per year, while under-65 enrollees without ESRD are generally charged premiums in the range of $4,000 to $7000 per year, and people who are age 65 typically pay somewhere in the range of $1,000 to $2,500 per year (premiums vary considerably from one insurer to another; these ranges cover most plans, but not all of them).
The separate risk pool and sharply higher Medigap premiums for under-65 enrollees with ESRD is particularly important given that prior to 2021, ESRD was also the only condition that prevented a person from enrolling in most Medicare Advantage plans. But starting in 2021, under the terms of the 21st Century Cures Act, people with ESRD are no longer barred from enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans nationwide.
Under federal Medigap rules, all Medicare beneficiaries have a guaranteed-issue open enrollment period when they’re at least 65 years old and enrolled in Medicare Part B. So enrollees in Delaware who are under-65, including those with ESRD, have the option to get a new plan with standard age-65 rates when they turn 65.
Most Medigap insurers in Delaware use attained-age rating, which means that premiums increase as the enrollee gets older. Some insurers use issue-age rating, which means premiums are based on the age the person was when they initially enrolled. United Healthcare/AARP uses community rating (ie, rates don’t vary based on age).
Delaware Medicare Part D
Original Medicare does not cover outpatient prescription drugs. Medicare beneficiaries can get needed prescription coverage via Medicaid, an employer-sponsored plan, or Medicare Part D — which is available as part of most Medicare Advantage plans or as a stand-alone prescription drug plan (PDP).
As of March 2023, 122,539 of those receiving Medicare benefits in Delaware were enrolled in stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. That’s 52% of the state’s total Medicare beneficiaries (for comparison, about 34% of all Medicare beneficiaries nationwide are enrolled in stand-alone Part D plans). In areas where Medicare Advantage enrollment is lower, enrollment in stand-alone Medicare Part D plans tends to be higher.
For 2023 Medicare Part D enrollment, there are 22 stand-alone Part D plans providing service in Delaware, with monthly premiums ranging from about $8 to $112.
Medicare Part D enrollment is available during the annual open enrollment period in the fall (October 15 to December 7). The plan you select during this window will take effect January 1. It’s recommended that all Medicare beneficiaries review their Part D coverage during open enrollment and consider switching policies if a different plan will better meet their needs (keeping in mind that covered drug lists, in-network pharmacies, and out-of-pocket drug costs can all change from one year to the next, in addition to any changes to a person’s own prescription needs)
How does Medicaid provide financial assistance to Medicare beneficiaries in Delaware?
Many Medicare beneficiaries receive financial assistance through Medicaid with the cost of Medicare premiums, prescription drug expenses, and services not covered by Medicare – such as long-term care.
Our guide to financial assistance for Medicare enrollees in Delaware includes overviews of these benefits, including Medicare Savings Programs, long-term care coverage, and eligibility guidelines for assistance.
Helpful resources for Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers
If you need assistance with Medicare enrollment in Delaware or have questions about Medicare eligibility in Delaware, here are some resources for you. They are available free of charge.
- You can contact the Delaware Medicare Assistance Bureau (formerly called Elderinfo) with any questions related to Medicare in Delaware. Visit the website or call 1-800-336-9500 or (302) 674-7364 for help over the phone or to arrange an in-person visit.
- The Delaware Prescription Assistance Program can help low-income seniors afford their medications. Download an application from their website or call 1-844-245-9580 for assistance.
- The Delaware Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) can provide various assistance to elderly and disabled Delaware residents. The phone number is 1-800-223-9074.
- Visit the Medicare Rights Center. This nationwide resource provides helpful information geared to Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and professionals.
Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.