Medicare Advantage

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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SCAN Health Opts to Invest in Medication Adherence Tool

SCAN Health Plan, a California-based Medicare Advantage insurer, is pushing further into the world of virtual drug management with an investment in Arine, a software vendor with a focus on artificial intelligence-backed medical management solutions.

On Oct. 19, SCAN Group, the carrier’s parent company, announced it had taken a minority stake in the vendor, with whom it had a previously established client relationship. The investment in Arine, whose software platform relies on predictive analytics to drive medication adherence, gives SCAN the ability to target specific populations and tailor messages individually to members, including to traditionally underserved populations, according to Binoy Bhansali, corporate vice president of corporate development for SCAN Group.

Insurers Get Their Wish With Repeal of Medical Device Rule

CMS repealed a proposed Trump-era regulation that would have required Medicare to cover experimental “breakthrough” medical devices that have been approved by the FDA but not cleared for Medicare use through a national coverage determination. Insurer groups opposed the rule and urged the Biden administration to revoke it, while the medical device industry’s largest trade group championed it as a breakthrough for patients.

“Although we continue to be in favor of enhancing access to new technologies, we are mindful that they may have unknown or unexpected risks and must first ensure such technologies improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries. The Medicare program needs to implement policies that balance access and appropriate safeguards,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure in a Nov. 12 press release on the decision. CMS said it will begin to develop an alternative policy to ensure speedy access to breakthrough technologies.

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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.