longtermcare

Health Plan Economics Part 1:  Medicare Advantage And New Rumors Of A Cigna-Humana Combination

This blog starts a four-part series on Health Plan Economics. In this series I plan on simply laying out some important trends in different lines of business and some of the impacts from a healthcare economics standpoint. Here is my plan, subject to change of course based on breaking news: April 25 – Medicare Advantage and Rumors Of Humana’s acquisition by Cigna April 29 – How The Lapse Of Premium Subsidies Could Hurt The Exchange’s Relatively Stable Finances May 2 – How Falling Medicaid Enrollment is Impacting Health Plans and Providers Alike May 6 – Other Healthcare Trends And Their Economic Impacts On Plans — Part 1 – Medicare Advantage and New Rumors of Cigna-Humana Combination I had not thought much about the failed Cigna-Humana combination since it fell apart late last year. But I was intrigued by Jeffries analyst who just reported that the math now may work again

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April 24, 2024

Humana Bounced Back But Has Challenges Humana’s Q1 2024 investor call was better than its Q4 one.  It reported better results, including a slightly improved medical loss ratio for its large Medicare Advantage (MA) business. Costs seem to be coming down but the delay in claims due to the cyberattack could cause a re-evaluation. Humana projects flat margins in 2024 and long-term margins to decline to a floor of 3%, which is noticeably down. It will cut $700 million in response in 2024. It pulled its 2025 projections for now. It continued to note that the 2025 rate hike will mean reductions in benefits and retreating in some geographies.  Additional article: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/finance/humana-medicare-advantage-profit-2024 and https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/humana-withdraws-2025-earnings-outlook-q1-2024/714105/ and https://www.beckerspayer.com/payer/humana-reported-741-million-in-net-income-in-the-first-quarter-of-2024.html and https://www.beckerspayer.com/payer/humana-plans-to-leave-some-medicare-advantage-markets-in-2025.html (Some articles may require a subscription.) #humana #medicareadvantage https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/humana-confirms-2024-guidance-even-it-beats-street-q1 Notable Layoffs Hitting Healthcare These are not the first announced layoffs due to tightening times, but more announcements have come.  Optum has laid

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April 23, 2024

FTC Votes To Ban Most Non-Competes The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) bans most non-competes.  The final rule would ban such agreements for anyone that is not both a senior executive (in a “policy-making position”) and earning more than $151,164 annually.  These positions represent less than 0.75% of the workforce. The FTC does not have cognizance over non-profits.  The rule is expected to be challenged in court, but seems to be a reasonable proposal.  Non-competes are used extensively in healthcare, even for doctors who do not meet the policy-making provision. This impacts up to 40% of doctors. A non-compete would remain for senior positions, which does not seem unreasonable. Surprisingly, provider lobbies are against a ban, largely because they are now influenced by private equity owners, who seek to freeze out doctors from taking other jobs. Many entities promise to sue. Additional articles: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/regulatory/ftc-votes-3-2-issue-final-rule-banning-noncompetes and https://www.modernhealthcare.com/providers/ftc-noncompete-ban-agreement-lina-khan and https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/ftc-noncompete-ban-healthcare-doctor-effects/713846/ (Some articles may

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Major Medicaid Managed Care Changes Follow Medicare Ones

Following major changes in Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a number of rules impacting Medicaid, but specificially managed care. With the vast majoirty of Medicaid beneficiaries in managed care, CMS is targeting numerous prorgams to the managed care programs in states.  What are the major changes impacting Medicaid managed care? Waiting times/access Rates, spending, and transparency Quality and satisfaction Nursing homes The Biden administration finalized numerous changes impacting nursing homes, including minimum staffing requirements and directing that 80% of all payments from Medicaid (over a six-year period and with some flexibility) go to wages for aides and nurses.  The problem with the rule is that rates just are not sufficient enough to meet these requirements and proposals Biden has made. Proposals to increase dollars have not yet passed.  The fear is that the moves in each case could force many

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April 22, 2024

United Did Pay Ransom In Cyberattack United HealthGroup confirmed that personal health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) was exposed in the attack and “could cover a substantial proportion of people in America.” It also confirmed a ransom was paid. It will take awhile to get to what was exposed and who was impacted. Experts have data which points to the payment of a $22 million ransom by United.  United confirms that while some systems are functioning near normal, others are not yet up and will be restored over time. In additional news, the United CEO will appear before a House subcommittee on May 1: https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/unitedhealth-ceo-testify-before-us-house-panel-cyberattack-tech-unit-2024-04-19/ . Additional article: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/cybersecurity/change-healthcare-update-unitedhealth-ransom (Some articles may require a subscription.) #united #changehealthcare #cyberattacks https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/unitedhealth-offers-update-cyberattack-data-analysis-systems-restoration Sweeping Medicaid Manage Care Rule Finalized The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized Medicaid managed care rules today that cover a number of critical areas, including requiring

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April 19, 2024

Optum Appears To Be Laying Off Employees Over Cyberattack Given the fallout from the Change Healthcare cyberattack, Optum appears to be laying off hundreds if not thousands of employees.  United HealthGroup has not commented on the matter at this point. I have heard that some of the laid off employees are even within the Change Healthcare unit, which could be impacting the return to normal business operations for some plans and providers. If this is true, that is outrageous. #changehealthcare #optum #cyberattacks https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/optum-undergoes-mass-layoffs-scale-unclear Continued Fallout Over Change Healthcare Cyberattack Good Kaiser Health News article on the continued fallout over the Change Healthcare cyberattack.  United tries to put the best face on the issue, saying that in many cases it is seeing normal operations.  But this article shows that many healthcare entities continue to see huge impacts on cash flow and their ability to bill.  I have personally been in contact

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April 18, 2024

Elevance Health Reports Positive Q1 News Elevance Health reported overall good numbers for Q1 2024.  While membership has dropped in Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicaid, margins were up and it reported little fallout on the Medicare medical expense or Change cyberattack front. Due to the MA rate cut, Elevance will balance business expansion with margin. On the call, the CEO also discussed the need to excel at Star measurement in MA.  It also continues to build its Carelon services unit. Additional articles: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/elevance-health-sees-double-digit-profit-growth-q1-posting-22b-earnings and https://www.modernhealthcare.com/insurance/elevance-health-medicaid-medicare-advantage-earnings (Some articles may require a subscription.) #elevancehealth #medicareadvantage https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/elevance-health-earnings-q1-change-cyberattack-medicaid-medicare-advantage/713521 Lawmaker-Physician Burgess Calls For Site-Neutral Policies Retiring Rep. Michael Burgess, a physician, is calling on the Biden administration to implement site-neutral payments for hospitals, arguing it could be a way to free up dollars to overhaul the physician payment formula in Medicare and lower overall costs.  He is right! I am not always sympathetic to physicians,

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Strong Growth As Major Enrollment Season Continued In Medicare Advantage

I have posted several blogs now on the exciting news that Medicare Advantage (MA) growth has been very robust not only in the traditional enrollment period from October 15 to December 2023, but also in the supplemental period from January 1 to March 31, 2024. Growth will continue throughout the year (due to aging primarily), but we should begin to see some slowing perhaps after the May numbers. So what have we seen.  As I have reported, growth from January 2023 to January 2024 was a robust 8.7% increase or 2.674 million.  Enrollment in MA reached 30.799 million in January.  Since that time, enrollment has continued to climb: The growth from January 1 to April 1 represents an additional 1.2% increase or 413,000 lives. MA enrollment has now increased beyond 51% of all Medicare beneficiaries. As we saw with January 2023 to January 2024, PPO growth now significantly outstrips HMO

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April 17, 2024

Many Healthcare Bankruptcies Linked To PE Firms I often talk about the pernicious impact that private equity firms have on healthcare.  Where the firms are successful, they tend to drive up costs in the system by buying provider groups, including owning emergency room providers, and pushing for huge payouts in No Surprises Act (NSA) arbitrations.  They also own hospitals where they cut costs due to high debt. Quality of course suffers and patient care takes a back seat. Such firms also force providers to practice at high-cost hospital places of service (the same is true for hospitals who are independent but are buying up doc groups). But the other pernicious impact is on shoddy investments and the churn and fallout that occurs.  PE firms tend to saddle the entities they buy with debt.  What’s more, some of the investments are questionable and speculative.  A new report says that more than

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April 16, 2024

Affiliate Of BlackCat Reportedly Published PHI From Change Cyberattack While the main operator of BlackCat ransomware appears to have kept a rumored $22 million ransom paid by United HealthGroup, an affiliate published data from the Change Healthcare cyberattack after United did not pay an additional ransom.  The affiliate controlled the captured PHI and data. #changehealthcare #cyberattacks https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/optums-change-healthcare-responding-cybersecurity-issue United Reports Stabilization of MA And Costs Of Cyberattack United HealthGroup reported two critical factors on Tuesday.  First, Medicare Advantage (MA) costs have stabilized in Q1 2024.  Second, the Change Healthcare cyberattack will cost up to $1.6 billion.  The costs will likely far exceed this estimate. Additional articles: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/insurance/change-healthcare-update-cyberattack-cost-unitedhealth and https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/change-cyberattack-unitedhealth-cost-q1-earnings/713288/ and https://www.beckerspayer.com/payer/medicare-advantage-costs-begin-to-stabilize-unitedhealth-says.html (Some articles may require a subscription.) #unitedhealthcare #changehealthcare #cyberattacks #medicareadvantage https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/unitedhealth-says-seasonal-pressures-ma-utilization-eased-q1 Lawmakers Receptive To Provider Recommendations On Cyber Security With United HealthGroup declining an invitation to attend a congressional hearing, lawmakers largely were empathetic to providers’ views on the cyber

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