Medical Costs

Insurers Applaud New CMMI Push for Risk-Based Contracting

The Biden administration has revamped the strategy of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation: In the coming years, CMMI will focus on consolidating models, increasing insurer and provider participation in models, and advancing equity — and it aims to have most Medicare and Medicaid members served by value-based payment models by the end of the decade. Health care insiders applauded the new direction, saying the “strategy refresh” should bring the agency closer to its original mission and make its budget go further.

CMMI has tested more than 50 models since its creation in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Experts outside the agency have criticized the proliferation of models: The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recommended in June that HHS “should implement a more harmonized portfolio of fewer alternative payment models that are designed to work together to support the strategic objectives of reducing spending and improving quality.”

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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.