As part of a Medicaid managed care revamp and its first statewide competitive procurement for the Medi-Cal program, the California Dept. of Health Care Services (DHCS) on Aug. 25 named the three insurers that will serve as commercial managed care plans (MCPs) in 2024. Elevance Health’s Anthem Blue Cross Partnership Plan, Centene Corp.’s Health Net and Molina Health Care were selected to participate in varying service areas across 21 counties. Health Net’s loss of three counties, however, spooked investors as Centene already faces declining Medicaid enrollment and continues to settle allegations of mishandling Medicaid pharmacy benefits in multiple states, the latest being Washington.
HHS is currently projecting that 17.4% of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollees — or about 15 million people — will move out of those programs when the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) ends. States have been barred from conducting eligibility redeterminations for Medicaid and CHIP during the PHE, as a condition of receiving enhanced federal funding, but those eligibility checks will resume whenever the PHE ends. Of those expected to lose Medicaid/CHIP coverage, almost one third are expected to qualify for premium tax credits to help defray the cost of Affordable Care Act marketplace plans, and among those people, more than 60% can access a zero-premium plan.
As Medicare Advantage insurers gear up to compete for enrollment during the 2023 Annual Election Period (AEP) that begins on Oct. 15, a handful of companies have already unveiled service area expansions that are pending CMS approval. Several of them named new territories in Texas, where some 4 million Medicare beneficiaries reside.
According to AIS's Directory of Health Plans (DHP), more than half of Medicare beneficiaries in Texas are enrolled in an MA plan. UnitedHealthcare has the biggest market share in the state, with 48.9% of enrollees, followed by Humana Inc., with 16.8%. And UnitedHealthcare has reportedly purchased the seventh-largest Texas MA plan, KelseyCare Advantage, which is operated by KS Plan Administrators and affiliated with medical group Kelsey-Seybold.
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.
Unlike in recent periods, PBMs were not necessarily stars of the show as the country’s largest publicly traded managed care organizations reported their second-quarter 2022 earnings. However, executives across the board still touted PBMs as a key component of their growth and diversification strategies.
At UnitedHealth Group, the first major MCO to report its quarterly results, one equities analyst queried the health care giant’s leaders about why OptumRx’s “strong” revenue and membership growth haven’t translated into larger margins.
After seeing improved medical cost trends and, in some cases, lower administrative costs, select insurers serving the Medicare Advantage space recently lifted their earnings projections for the full year. Conference calls to discuss second-quarter 2022 earnings were full of questions about pricing and changes related to their MA products as the 2023 Annual Election Period (AEP) approaches, but executives were more focused on touting efforts to serve members holistically, including through rebranding strategies as companies attempt to align their various business segments.
Premiums on the individual marketplace are set to increase by an average of 10% nationally, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) of the first batch of preliminary premium rate filings sent to state exchange regulators. The filings are just the first in several steps before carriers lock in rates for open enrollment for the 2023 plan year, and don’t represent the final price of those premiums. But experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that utilization and medical trend mean that substantive price increases are a certainty — even if Congress extends the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) enhanced premium tax credits, which are set to expire at the end of this year.
News Briefs: CMS’s Enhanced MTM Model Still Isn’t Showing Savings to the Medicare Parts A and B Programs
After four years, the Enhanced Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Model still has not generated any net savings to the Medicare program. Through the five-year model that started in January 2017, model participants tested a variety of interventions to improve Part D beneficiaries’ medication use. Despite efforts by some sponsors to alter their interventions, there continued to be no statistically significant impacts on Medicare Parts A and B expenditures for the overall enrollee population in model-participating plans, observed the Fourth Evaluation Report released by the CMS Innovation Center last month. Findings from subgroup analyses suggested that enrollees eligible for the low-income subsidy and enrollees with medically complex profiles did not benefit more from the model compared to the overall enrollee population, while the program saw decreases in inpatient expenditures and admissions related to the Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions for both the medically complex subgroup and the all-enrollee cohort, according to the report prepared by Acumen.
Medicare Advantage enrollment reached nearly 28.8 million as of May, reflecting an overall increase of about 1% during the three-month Open Enrollment Period (OEP) that ended on March 31, according to the latest update to AIS’s Directory of Health Plans (DHP). That’s compared with growth of 5.3% from October 2021 to February, reflecting results from the Annual Election Period (AEP) that ran from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Beneficiaries who enrolled in an MA plan during the AEP have a one-time opportunity to change their coverage selection during the OEP, and insurers that made above-average membership gains during both periods attributed their successes to product enhancements, geographic expansions and strong distribution partnerships.
Medicare Advantage enrollment grew by about 232,000 lives during the 2022 Open Enrollment Period (OEP), according to CMS’s May data release and AIS’s Directory of Health Plans. As in the Annual Election Period (AEP), UnitedHealthcare dominated, holding 45.1% of the overall OEP gains, followed by CVS Health Corp.’s Aetna at 16.9% and Centene Corp at 13.5%. Among other large, publicly traded insurers, Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc. both flopped in the OEP, losing 12,600 and 4,200 members, respectively. Meanwhile, insurance startups Bright Health and Clover Health both made the top 20 despite recent financial challenges and questioned viability. See the top 25 OEP performers, plus their AEP results and current enrollment, in the chart below.