What’s the future of Medicare Advantage? It’s a question many constituencies are increasingly curious about – and working to change. From politicians on both sides of the aisle to the seniors who will be most affected by the developments, Medicare Advantage is a major talking point in 2018, and looking ahead to the future.

Starting in less than two years, by 2020, Medicare Advantage plans will have flexibility to target non-medical health-related services for members with chronic conditions. This could have major implications – as 74 percent of all Medicare spending goes to Medicare beneficiaries with four or more chronic conditions, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“[Medicare Advantage] plans are popular with both those who sign up due to the additional benefits they offer, and with insurers that have realized profits and decreased costs through narrow networks and aligned incentives,” writes Susan Morse in Healthcare Finance News.

Other changes include how Medicare Advantage insurers will be able to include more proactive services, such as “modifications to help accommodate walkers or wheelchairs, or home-delivered meals that are lower in salt or sugar for those with diabetes or chronic heart failure.”

This is a crucial change, as the number of older Americans is expected to double by 2050. But it’s not just about the numbers – it’s about the way Medicare providers are currently interacting with their customers with chronic conditions. In a recent Healthmine survey, just 16% of respondents with chronic conditions said they had a follow-up on quality of care after a provider visit, while 10% said their plans offered guidance about these chronic conditions.

With so much financially at stake relating to chronic conditions, steps forward in Medicare Advantage – as well as in closing the communication gap – is important.

About The Number:

The Number is a timely column from HealthMine highlighting a key statistic that is pertinent to the US health care industry.