Dual Eligibles

News Briefs: Individual Medicare Advantage Enrollment Surpasses 24.7 million, Up 9% Year Over Year

Individual Medicare Advantage enrollment this month surpassed 24.7 million lives, reflecting 9.3% membership growth since last August, according to a Barclays analysis of CMS’s latest monthly enrollment report. The publicly traded MCOs saw year-over-year individual MA membership grow by 10.5%, with Centene Corp. and CVS Health Corp.’s Aetna delivering double-digit enrollment gains, according to the analysis. Cigna Corp., however, underperformed with a year-over-year membership decline of 5.5%, observed Barclays. CMS’s August data release reflects enrollments accepted through July 8.

Highmark Wholecare has partnered with Posit Science to incorporate “brain fitness” into a program aimed at reducing vulnerable members’ risk of falling and improving balance. Highmark Wholecare, formerly Gateway Health, will offer BrainHQ exercises and services to approximately 7,000 qualifying members who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and identified as a high risk for falls. BrainHQ’s evidence-based brain fitness program is available via web or mobile phone and is supported by more than 200 peer-reviewed studies, according to an Aug. 15 press release from the partners.

CMS Takes Next Steps Toward Phasing Out D-SNP Look-alikes

In a new enrollment transition memo issued to Medicare Advantage organizations with a significant number of dual eligible enrollees in products that are not Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans, CMS appears to be pushing so-called D-SNP look-alike plans to the brink of extinction. But the two-year transition process, which will wrap up for the 2023 plan year, still allows traditional MA plans to enrollee a limited number of duals. And one trade organization suggests more could be done to incentivize MAOs to set up D-SNPs.

CMS in 2019 first began cracking down on D-SNP look-alikes — MA plans that are marketed to duals but are not D-SNPs or integrated products — when it released draft revisions to the Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines that stated look-alikes cannot imply that the plan is for dual eligibles, cannot claim or infer that they have a relationship with the state, and cannot exclusively market to duals. A year prior, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) in its June report to Congress had argued that more needed to be done to promote the development of integrated plans and raised the issue of D-SNP look-alikes. At the time, approximately 2.7 million dual eligibles were enrolled in one of four types of managed care plans available to them, yet only 8% of full-benefit duals were in a plan with a high level of Medicare and Medicaid integration. More than 4.1 million individuals are now enrolled in a SNP, of which nearly 3.7 million are in a D-SNP.

Payers, Government Are Increasing Focus on Health Inequities

Health insurers, states and the federal government are beginning to take more seriously health inequities, according to experts who spoke with AIS Health, a division of MMIT, as the issue becomes a hot topic due to the health and financial costs caused by disparities in health care access and outcomes.

Health inequities related to race, socioeconomic status and sex/gender account for $320 billion in annual health care spending for five high-cost diseases, according to a Deloitte report released on June 22. Deloitte actuaries project that could increase to $1 trillion by 2040 and lead to an average $2,000 increase in health spending per person in the U.S. if those issues are not addressed. The researchers examined the costs of health inequities related to the treatment — or lack thereof — of breast cancer, diabetes, colorectal cancer, asthma and coronary heart disease.

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SCAN, CCA Team Up to Support PACE Enrollees Through myPlace

As the pandemic underscores the importance of enhanced support for community-dwelling seniors with complex care needs, two not-for-profit Medicare Advantage organizations have teamed up to sponsor an “integrated care delivery organization” designed to serve enrollees who qualify for Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). Long Beach, Calif.-based SCAN Health Plan and Boston-based Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA) last month unveiled the launch of myPlace Health as part of their shared mission of keeping seniors healthy and independent.

Robbie Pottharst, CEO of the newly launched company, confirms that myPlace is seeking to become a PACE organization and align with local health plans that may already serve dual eligibles who qualify for PACE and that, in his words, “can lend capability, expertise and a lot of accelerators to build this business.” Pottharst previously held leadership roles with Cityblock Health, Kaiser Permanente and CareMore Health, where Sachin Jain, M.D., served as president and CEO before taking over the reins at SCAN.

News Briefs: CMS Is Seeking Applicants for the 2023 MA VBID and Part D Senior Savings Models

CMS on March 1 issued a request for applications (RFA) for the 2023 Medicare Advantage Value-Based Insurance Design Model, which will include new elements such as a Health Equity Incubation Program that will encourage testing of interventions in “the most promising focus areas” (e.g., food insecurity) and designing best practices for such interventions. Thirty-four MA organizations are currently offering benefit packages that feature tailored VBID model benefits and rewards and incentives to more than 3.7 million enrollees, according to the model’s website. CMS on Feb. 28 also released an RFA from Medicare Part D sponsors and pharmaceutical manufacturers interested in participating in the 2023 Part D Senior Savings Model. Now in its third year, the insulin-focused model is intended to lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors by featuring “predictable” copayments of no more than $35 for a broad set of insulins. The voluntary model has 106 participants, including five manufacturers. CMS is accepting applications for the VBID model through April 15 and for the SSM through April 8.

InnovAge Stock Falls as Regulators Scrutinize PACE Operations

Despite better-than-expected financial results posted for its fiscal-year 2022 second quarter, shares of InnovAge — the largest provider of Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) — tumbled last week amid concerns about its ability to grow in the face of intensifying regulatory scrutiny. Between federal audits and issues with its state partners, InnovAge’s many struggles relate to program compliance and may demonstrate the difficulties of scaling up a specialized care model in a highly regulated industry.

Providing services primarily through a dedicated center, PACE organizations support frail, elderly Americans who require a nursing-home level of care by offering comprehensive medical care and social supports to help them remain at home. The PACE market serves about 51,000 participants, most of whom are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, and it is largely composed of regional organizations. As the dominant PACE organization, InnovAge serves 12% of that market.

CMS Rule Proposes to Take Dual Integration to the Next Level

In its new rule proposing an array of policy and technical changes for the 2023 Medicare Advantage and Part D contract year, CMS devoted a large section to advancing integration of Medicare and Medicaid benefits for dually eligible individuals. Though the rule is largely in line with the goals of the SNP Alliance, whose member plans serve approximately 2.5 million Special Needs Plan (SNP) enrollees, the organization says many of the proposals will require greater collaboration between states and plans, as well as more specificity and standardization around the proposed collection of social determinants of health (SDOH) data.

The proposed rule, Medicare Program; Contract Year 2023 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs (87 Fed. Reg. 1842, Jan. 12, 2022), included the following provisions:

InnovAge Replaces CEO After CMS Imposes Second Enrollment Freeze on the PACE Organization

Shortly after Denver-based InnovAge learned that CMS suspended enrollment in the company’s Colorado programs due to noncompliance, the leading Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) provider unveiled the resignation of its longtime CEO, Maureen Hewitt. InnovAge serves more than 6,300 PACE participants, or 12% of PACE enrollees overall, and is in the midst of a major expansion. The company on Jan. 3 said Hewitt was leaving to “pursue other opportunities” and it promoted Patrick Blair, the current president, to president and CEO.

InnovAge in March 2021 began trading on the Nasdaq Global Select under the ticker symbol “INNV,” and at the time said it planned to expand its footprint of 16 centers in five states. The company in November said it expected to open three centers in fiscal year 2023 and was looking at additional locations and eyeing acquisitions in new markets.

Aduhelm Price Cut May Not Sway Private Payers’ View of Drug

Since the FDA greenlit the Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm (aducanumab) in July under the accelerated approval program, concerns over the drug’s hefty price tag and overall effectiveness have been mounting. Now, the drug’s manufacturer, Biogen Inc., has cut the price approximately in half. One expert tells AIS Health that the move may cause private insurers to view the drug slightly more favorably, but they’re still likely to impose coverage restrictions on it. And a health plan trade group signaled that it isn’t impressed by the price cut.

After all, the furor surrounding Aduhelm is not all about price. “The clinical evidence that the FDA relied upon when approving the drug had various limitations, and the findings of the two clinical studies were conflicting,” James Chambers, Ph.D., MPharm., an associate professor at the Tufts Medical Center Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, tells AIS Health via email.