obamacare

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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With Boom Over, Will Medicare Advantage Collapse Or Adjust?

After I posted my last blog Thursday ( https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-medical-expense-rising-what-are-health-plans-to-do/ ) and people digested what was happening with insurers’ stocks last week, a number of readers contacted me asking me to opine further on what was happening in MA. Many asked: “Is the Medicare boom over and is Medicare Advantage (MA) somehow collapsing under the weight of growing medical expense and government regulations?” They told me that they read many articles that implied MA was done — kaput! Indeed, my blogs have struck an alarmist cord at times about what is happening in MA, while other times I continue to extol the value and continued success of MA. So what’s up? It is a fair question and impression after the MA news over the past few weeks. Indeed, I give you a mixed review on MA on this site for good reasons. Refresh on issues Let’s refresh a bit on that

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January 26, 2024

2023 Bankruptcies Highest In Five Years As was reported earlier, another report also shows that bankruptcies were very high in the healthcare arena in 2023.  Hospitals, pharmaceutical and senior care companies were on the list. Additional articles here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/finance/healthcare-bankruptcies-2023-gibbins-advisors and https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/healthcare-bankruptcies-spike-2023-gibbins-advisors/705738/ (Some articles may require a subscription.) #hospitals #healthcare #bankruptcies Link to Article Biden Administration Strikes Again On Mergers The Federal Trade Commission opposes another prominent merger – Novant Health’s purchase of two Community Health Systems hospitals. Additional article here: https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/federal-trade-commission-sues-block-novant-health-community-health-systems-hospital-acquisition/705648/ #mergers #acquisitions #ftc #antitrust Link to Article Drug Maker CEOs To Appear On Capitol Hill A day after some very bad press, Johnson & Johnson CEO Joaquin Duato, Merck CEO Robert Davis and Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Chris Boerner all said they would appear at  hearing on drug pricing.  Additional article here: https://www.statnews.com/2024/01/26/merck-johnson-johnson-ceos-drug-prices/ (Some articles may require a subscription.) #drugpricing #branddrugmakers Link to Article Medicaid Enrollment Losses Under Redeterminations

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January 25, 2024

Humana Reconfirms Bad News On Utilization In MA After an earlier filing, Humana reconfirmed bad news on the medical expense front. Because it is a predominant Medicare Advantage (MA) insurer, it has seen a major and unexpected rise in utilization, which impacted the company’s 2023 numbers and prospects for 2024 and beyond.  Broussard is one of the smartest healthcare leaders out there and he is someone I listen to closely. Given the medical expense rise, rate compression, and regulatory changes (such as the new prior authorization rule), Broussard said he expects similar pricing adjustments from other payers, as the spike in utilization along with ongoing regulatory changes will have major impacts in 2025 and potentially beyond. Broussard says this could very well be industrywide. Humana reduced benefits for 2024 and this could be a continued trend into the future. Humana plans on cutting about $700 million in administrative costs. It

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With Medical Expense Rising, What Are Health Plans To Do?

Insurer stocks were rocked recently by news that both United Healthcare and Humana saw unexpected medical expense increases.  After filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and quarterly investors relations calls, these two companies’ stocks as well as those of other insurers tumbled.  Elevance Health also reported its Q4 2023 and full year 2023 results. It beat the trend.  It reported medical expense in line with expectations, but did note some increases in areas.  We are sure to see other plans report unexpected increases, with the biggest impacts likely seen at plans with major enrollment in Medicare Advantage (MA). And many plans are gearing up for additional layoffs and other administrative cuts due to the medical expense concerns. Why are plans seeing increases in medical costs?  First, utilization is slowly returning to normal in the healthcare industry post the COVID pandemic.  Second, inflation is taking root again and it

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January 24, 2024

Record Enrollment In Exchanges Nationwide The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced something to celebrate.  Driven in part by Medicaid redetermination enrollment losses and enhanced premium subsidies, state and federal exchange enrollment reached a projected 21.3 million for 2024. An amazing achievement. Over 5 million new enrollees joined over 16 million existing members. Nearly 4.2 million people with incomes of less than 250% of the federal poverty level signed up for 2024 coverage.  They receive both premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions. About 15% of those enrollment previously had Medicaid.  That translates to a little over 3 million – a small amount of those who lost Medicaid coverage. Over 16 million are in the federal Exchange and about 5 million in various state Exchanges. CMS press release here: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/historic-213-million-people-choose-aca-marketplace-coverage . CMS Snapshot here: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/marketplace-2024-open-enrollment-period-report-final-national-snapshot . HHS press release here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2024/01/24/historic-21-million-people-choose-aca-marketplace-coverage.html Kaiser

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January 23, 2024

Rural Hospitals In Distress A good measure of the distress rural hospitals: most no longer deliver babies. Over half of the country’s rural hospitals aren’t offering labor and delivery services and more could end such services. Some would argue that the rural hospitals’ plight could be solved by more money for hospitals overall.  The truth is the abominable hospital price system we have in this country along with the gross inefficiency of most hospitals drains overall healthcare resources and means we do not have enough to respond to true crises, such as those in rural communities. #ruralhealthcare #hospitals Link to Article Good Summary Of New Interoperability Rule’s Impact On Health Plans Modern Healthcare has a good article summarizing the provisions and impacts of the new interoperability rule.  Among the mandates are a swifter turnaround time for medical service authorizations in 2026 and the new FHIR electronic prior authorization process in

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