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February 7, 2024

House Republicans Vote To Ban QALYs House Republicans passed a bill to ban the use of the controversial Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) measurement in federal programs.  Additional article here: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/house-republicans-vote-ban-pricing-metrics-federal-programs #qalys #medicare #medicaid Link to Article Fitch Says MA Trends Will Mean A Credit Neutral Outlook Fitch Ratings says that the spike in medical expense and rate reductions in Medicare Advantage (MA) will end up being credit neutral, arguing plans are well-placed to weather a storm. #medicareadvantage Link to Article Even With Good 2023, CVS Health Saw Utilization Spike and Cuts Its 2024 Outlook CVS Health is cutting its 2024 outlook in the face of a utilization and medical expense spike at insurer Aetna. It otherwise had good 2023 results.  CVS also agreed with Humana and Centene that the 2025 rate announcement was inadequate. Additional articles here: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/cvs-earns-350-billion-revenue-2023-over-77-billion-profit and https://www.modernhealthcare.com/insurance/cvs-health-medicare-advantage-utilization-2024 and https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2024/02/07/cvs-health-profits-hit-2-billion-as-company-benefits-from-new-provider-businesses/?sh=443dc8d5507b (Some articles may require a subscription.) #cvshealth

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February 6, 2024

Centene Reports Good Numbers, But Cautions On MA Rates Centene reported good numbers to Wall Street today, with notable increases in its Exchange line of business. Medicaid enrollment dropped due to redeterminations. But like Humana, Centene is cautioning that the Medicare Advantage (MA) 2025 rate announcement was inadequate and could lead to further benefit and other changes in its MA line. It also notes that other regulatory changes are impacting its MA investment.  Centene has already pared back benefits and geographies to bring its MA line to a better financial position. Additional articles here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/insurance/centene-medicare-advantage-rate-cut-2025-sarah-london and https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/centene-medicare-advantage-rate-drop-2023-earnings/706620/ Two other articles on the fallout from MA rates and regulatory changes here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/insurance/medicare-advantage-rate-cut-2025-reimbursements-benefits-unitedhealth-humana and https://www.statnews.com/2024/02/05/cano-health-bankruptcy-medicare-advantage/ These articles underscore what I said in these blogs: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-boom-over-will-medicare-advantage-collapse-or-adjust/ and https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/2025-rates-for-medicare-advantage-plans-look-tight/ (Some articles may require a subscription.) #centene #medicareadvantage Link to Article Another Big Week For Drug Policy Much like last week, this week is very

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February 5, 2024

Spectacular But Not Unexpected Fall Of Cano Health Showing that healthcare remains a risky place, Cano Health announces bankruptcy and a spectacular collapse for the provider organization that enters into risk arrangements with Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicaid managed care. The MA market has been tough for both plans and providers. The new CEO has been trying to refocus efforts in better market areas by exiting questionable areas. Questions are being raised about why Humana, a major stakeholder, will not buy the firm outright.  Additional articles here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/digital-health/cano-health-bankruptcy-mark-kent and https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/cano-health-chapter-11-bankruptcy-restructuring-agreement/706546/ (Some articles may require a subscription.) #medicareadvantage #humana #providers Link to Article Humana Reacts To CMS MA Rate Announcement Humana reacted publicly today to last week’s rate announcement. Despite the reduction being larger than expected, it reconfirmed its more recent guidance on earnings. The final rates could be higher. See my recent blogs on the subject: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-boom-over-will-medicare-advantage-collapse-or-adjust/ and https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-medical-expense-rising-what-are-health-plans-to-do/ Additional

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Value-Based Care Payments And Arrangements Explained

A few readers have written in and asked if I could explain the various value-based-care (VBC) payment and arrangement frameworks. Specifically, they asked about my references to global and partial risk funds for providers.  Here is my best effort to explain what I see as the two overall types of VBC payments/arrangements we see in the marketplace today. Purpose VBC payments are meant to move from the fee-for-service (FFS) transactional payment system to one driven by efficiency and quality.  What do I mean by transaction payments? For the past many decades, most payments in our healthcare system were made as a fee for each service transacted in the healthcare system.  That can be the case when we go to the primary care physician (PCP), where he or she will be paid a fee by the insurer for the visit as well as other services provided. Similarly, a specialist may be

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February 2, 2024

Cigna Chief Explains Medicare Advantage Exit Cigna CEO David Cordani told investors today that he believes in Medicare Advantage (MA) but it is better for his service business, not his insurance line. In an upbeat investor call, Cordani said that the Medicare line would have required major investments that were not justified based on the size of the portfolio, but that Medicare holds great promise as a service element of its growing Evernorth business.  He said Cigna will double down on Evernorth grow.  Its report on medical loss ratio was very good as were the financials.  Some still question the decision to shed the MA lives. In the current environment for MA, Cordani’s decision may look right.  But will it be the right one over the long term? Or, is this a short-term calculation and Cordani will go back after Humana again down the road? Stay tuned. Additional articles here:

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February 1, 2024

MA Issues Trickle Down To Providers And Vendors This article focuses on Medicare Advantage (MA) troubles – rates, utilization, medical expense, and punitive regulatory requirements – and how they impact insurers, value-based-care providers, and vendors. My intel suggests that the traditionally flush global and partial risk funds that insurers have with providers around the country (providers share in profits when they help reduce costs and improve quality) have dried up or are drying up. Providers are already attacking insurers on numerous issues and this development will only make such relationships even worse. Note as well the reference to MA plans emphasizing profitability by reining in market growth and benefits.  I say just this in my blog on the topic here: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-boom-over-will-medicare-advantage-collapse-or-adjust/ . As well, see my just published blog on the 2025 MA payment proposal: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/2025-rates-for-medicare-advantage-plans-look-tight/ (Article may require a subscription.) #medicareadvantage #vbc #providers Link to Article Scan Group CEO Recommends

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2025 Rates for Medicare Advantage Plans Look Tight

My latest blogs have touched upon the fact that while Medicare Advantage (MA) continues to grow, MA plans in the program are facing a number of financial challenges: While MA plans prepared for the worse, the advanced notice of MA payments for 2025 could very well compound the problem, even with increased enrollment – which is robust and driven by the clear difference between the value of MA vs. the traditional fee-for-service (FFS) program. It will remain that way. See my last blog on all this: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-boom-over-will-medicare-advantage-collapse-or-adjust/ So let’s take a look at the advanced 2025 MA rate notice. Controversy over calculations Each year there is a robust debate on how to even calculate what the year over year increases will be in MA. It revolves around risk score trends. Risk scores tend to inflate each year in the program. MA plans would argue risk scores predict the costs of

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January 31, 2024

Another Flat Year For Medicare Advantage Before Risk Score Trends The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the 2025 rate hike for Medicare Advantage will be relatively flat. This is similar to what happened in 2024 after big increases in 2022 and 2023.  The effective growth rate was up, but the phase-in of a new risk adjustment model basically offsets those gains. The final notice may push these numbers up a bit. If you include risk score trends, MA revenue could increase by about 3.7%. So real revenue should be up, but health plans don’t like thinking of it that way as they think risk score trends tie to increased medical exposure.  I include all these articles here but read with caution as many reporters interpret things differently. In the end, this is not the worst news, but it is bad in the face of some major medical

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January 30, 2024

Health Policies To Watch In 2024 The Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracker has a good briefer on expected healthcare policy issues to watch in 2024.  Among the many include site-neutral policies, price transparency, drug pricing and trends, PBM reform, drug price differences around the developed world for weight-loss drugs, value-based care and payments, and anti-trust activity.  A great primer! #peterson #kff #healthcare #healthcarereform Link to Article Kaiser Family Foundation Publishes Analysis Of Medicare Advantage Enrollment Drivers The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) briefer on why Americans are choosing Medicare Advantage (MA) is an important read.  I do not agree with everything in it, including references to a recent MedPAC analysis, but MA proponents will have a very good understanding of the threats presented. KFF providers ten reasons. MA is expected to hit at least 60% of beneficiaries by 2030 and that payments to MA are right now about 123% higher, or

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January 29, 2024

Elevance Health Sues CMS Over Medicare Advantage Star Rating Interesting article on Elevance Health’s lawsuit against the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Stars.  If this is anything close to true, CMS needs to relook at how it ensure fairness in calculations. How many others may have been impacted? #elevancehealth #stars #medicareadvantage Link to Article Moody’s Says Medicare Advantage Margins On Downturn Interesting analysis by Moody’s that says Medicare Advantage (MA) margins have dropped from 4.9% in 2019 to 3.4% in 2022. Margins fell in commercial too but by a smaller amount. Note that these changes occurred before the latest medical expense upswing, lower 2024 rates, and new prior authorization limitations. Today, I published a blog on the future of MA after some major regulatory changes and a major increase in medical expenses. The boom is over. What will happen? The blog is here: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-boom-over-will-medicare-advantage-collapse-or-adjust/ #medicareadvantage #margins #rates

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