The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the quality ratings so that beneficiaries can compare plans before Medicare Open Enrollment begins on Oct. 15.

Nearly 77 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans with drug coverage will be in plans with four or more stars in 2021, CMS announced on Thursday. That compares to 69 percent of beneficiaries enrolled in MA plans in 2017.

The data release comes on the heels of the recent CMS announcement that the average 2021 premium for MA plans will be the lowest in 14 years. “The historically low premiums for Medicare Advantage plans this year would mean little if they didn’t come paired with high-quality care,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in the news announcement.

RELATED: CMS: Medicare Advantage premiums plunge as enrollment soars

Although there were no new measures introduced for 2021 Star ratings, CMS has increased the weight of patient experience compliance and access measures from 1.5 to 2. In addition, the agency did eliminate some of the data collection requirements, including HEDIS® and CAHPS survey data because of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Instead, the agency used the data from the prior year for the 2021 Star ratings calculations.

The data reveals that nearly half of MA plans that offer prescription drug coverage will have an overall rating of four stars or higher (up from 45 percent in 2017).

Other key findings:

  • 28 plans earned five stars this year, compared to 23 for the 2020 Star ratings report
  • 13 of those five-star plans did not achieve the highest quality score in 2020
  • Prominence HealthFirst of Texas was the only contract to receive a warning for Part C and/or Part D summary ratings of 2.5 or fewer stars for the past three years