RADAR on Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage Insurers Step Up SNP Offerings for 2022, Particularly for Duals

As Medicare Advantage enrollment soars and the number of individual MA plans available across the U.S. reaches a new high for 2022, the MA Special Needs Plan market is also seeing continued growth. According to estimates from Clear View Solutions, LLC, there will be 926 plans available next year that were offered in 2021, compared with 766 plans that carried over from 2020 to 2021 (see infographic). Dual Eligible SNPs (D-SNPs), in particular, will rise from 477 plans offered in 2020 and 2021 to 569 plans available this year and next, according to the consulting firm’s analysis of the 2022 SNP Landscape files from CMS.

Given COVID Surge, Humana Deviates From Peers With Lower Guidance

Like the other publicly traded insurers that reported third-quarter 2021 earnings late last month, select Medicare Advantage insurers in early November demonstrated strong performances during a quarter that was tainted by a rise in COVID-related costs. Unlike its more balanced peers, however, MA-focused Humana Inc. took a decidedly conservative approach to projecting earnings for the full year given continued COVID uncertainty.

Clover Health Struggles to Contain Medical Costs for MA Members

Of the newly public startup insurers that reported third-quarter 2021 earnings, all four posted higher (worse) medical loss ratios (MLRs) compared with the prior-year quarter — a direct result of higher COVID-related costs. The two insurers with a focus on Medicare Advantage, however, demonstrated wildly different experiences, with Clover Health Investments Corp.’s MLR clocking in at 102.5%, while Alignment Healthcare, Inc.’s 85.7% MLR was more in line with those of the larger, established insurers.

MVP Health Care Taps Into ‘Underserved’ Market With D-SNP

Schenectady, N.Y.-based MVP Health Care has long served Medicare beneficiaries in New York and Vermont with Medicare Advantage and Medicare Savings Account plans. It is also a contractor for the New York State Medicaid program, caters to employers, and offers individual and family plans on and off the Affordable Care Act exchanges. For 2022, the not-for-profit insurer is launching a Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan (D-SNP) through a joint venture with Belong Health, a new company that was co-founded by former Cigna Corp. executive J. Patrick Foley and specializes in helping regional payers launch MA and SNP products.

Payers Are Increasingly Attracted to Growing SNP Market

From 2017 to 2021, the number of people enrolled in Special Needs Plans (SNPs) grew 69.2%, topping 4.1 million lives, according to the latest update to AIS’s Directory of Health Plans. D-SNPs saw the most growth, a whopping 79.3% increase to 3.7 million lives, followed by I-SNPs (+31.9%), then C-SNPs (+16.6%). Meanwhile, plans have grown to meet that surge, with the total number of SNP offerings expanding from 498 to 926 plans in the same time period, per an analysis of CMS’s Landscape files from Clear View Solutions, LLC.

News Briefs: New MA and Part D Rule Is Pending at OMB | Nov. 18, 2021

The Biden administration’s first Medicare Advantage and Part D regulation is pending review at the Office of Management and Budget. The CMS final rule, titled “Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage Program and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program; MOOP and Cost Sharing Limits (CMS-4190),” was received on Nov. 10. It is not economically significant, according to the posting at RegInfo.gov.

Nutrition Makes Headway as MA Supplemental Benefit for 2022

The delivery of prepared meals, often triggered by a hospitalization, has played a steadily increasing role in Medicare Advantage plans’ efforts to manage members’ chronic conditions, but now the more nuanced area of nutrition is starting to gain traction as a supplemental benefit offering. Nutrition services vendors say offering healthy food options and education to at-risk members can result in major medical cost savings for plans.

Three Major Medicaid Insurers Report 3Q Gains Despite COVID Surge

A diversified portfolio was the name of the game late last month as publicly traded insurers discussed third-quarter 2021 earnings and braced for the return of Medicaid eligibility redeterminations, which could happen anytime after the latest public health emergency extension runs out in mid-January 2022. Despite a surge in COVID-19 costs in the quarter, Anthem, Inc., Centene Corp. and Molina Healthcare, Inc. all delivered better-than-anticipated earnings, which they attributed in part to Medicaid enrollment growth as states continue to put off eligibility reverifications.

Iowa Medicaid Director Refutes Managed Care Audit Results

As the Iowa Dept. of Human Services considers making changes to its managed Medicaid program, IA Health Link, State Auditor Rob Sand last month released a damning report that says the state’s 2016 transition to managed Medicaid led to an 891% increase in “illegally denied services or care.” The report also details how two managed care organizations violated provisions of their contracts with the Dept. of Human Services, although DHS says the report is flawed. Since 2019, only two insurers have been serving the program, but DHS is considering adding up to two more.

Industry Groups Get in Front of Potential Medicare Advantage Cuts

As progressives seek to keep some expansion of Medicare benefits in the president’s shrinking budget reconciliation package, industry-allied organizations have been building public-facing campaigns to protect Medicare Advantage from any “cuts.” Provisions to add dental and vision benefits to Medicare were removed from the latest text of the Build Back Better Act — likely giving MA plans less to worry about — while progressive lawmakers at press time were intent on getting drug pricing provisions into a final measure.