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Finalization of 2025 Policies: Major Changes Coming To Medicare Advantage and Part D

Just recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized two important notices and rules impacting CY 2025: the 2025 annual rate-setting and policy notice as well as the draft 2025 Medicare Advantage and Part D rule. In this blog, I will write about both the 2025 final rule as well as the policy changes in the 2025 final notice. In my blog on April 4, 2024, I discussed the rate-setting components of the annual rate-setting and policy notice.  That blog is here: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/final-2025-rates-for-medicare-advantage-remain-as-proposed/ . In addition, my February 1, 2024 blog on the draft notice is here and has more details: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/2025-rates-for-medicare-advantage-plans-look-tight/ . They should be read together due to a few changes. In addition to the below, you can see my November 13, 2023 blog on the 2025 Medicare Advantage and Part D rule when it was first announced.  This has additional details but also should be

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Final 2025 Rates For Medicare Advantage Remain As Proposed

In my February 1, 2024 blog, I walked you through the Advance Notice from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding proposed Medicare Advantage (MA) rates for calendar year 2025.  Many health plans and industry-friendly trade groups lobbied CMS hard for a change in the proposal. Even lawmakers got into the game. But the final notice came out this week and almost nothing changed on the rate front.  On February 1, I told you that MA plans were very worried about the proposed 2025 rate because of a series of negative trends that were hitting them: So let’s take a look at what happened between the Advance Notice and the Final Notice of 2025 MA rates. 2024 and 2025 Medicare Advantage Rate Comparisons   2024 Final 2025 Proposed 2025 Final Effective Growth Rate 2.28% 2.44% 2.33% Changes in Star Revenue (Overall) -1.24% -0.15% -0.11% Rebasing 0.00% TBD 0.07%

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What’s All The Clamor Over GLP-1s For Weight Loss?

Hollywood supposedly is addicted to them. More and more Americans are now trying GLP-1s for weight loss. What is happening here with GLP-1s is something repeated often in the drug world. First, what is a GLP-1? The drugs were introduced in the U.S. beginning in the mid-2000s and have been used for those with type 2 diabetes who were overweight. These are a class of drugs that perform much like a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1. As blood sugars rise in the blood stream, the drugs stimulate the production of more insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels. This is essential for controlling type 2 diabetes. It’s not clear how the GLP-1 drugs lead to weight loss overall, although the drugs do appear to slow the movement of food through the digestive tract and make you feel fuller. How did it become popular for weight loss? Now let’s get into off-label use of

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Surprise! Surprise! No Surprises Act Favors Providers And Is Driving Up Costs

Since the No Surprises Act (NSA) was passed in late 2020, I have argued that the baseball-style arbitration process is heavily stacked against health plans and favors providers.  The law went into effect on January 1, 2022, with some portions still forestalled by the federal government.  But the main components  that stop surprise billing to patients and the process to settle what is paid by plans to providers has been in force now for about 2 years.  The implementation of the arbitration has been rocky.  The number of cases is demonstrably above what was expected.  That said, more and more data is now available that shows how well providers are doing from the process. In commercial coverage, the main component of the law disallows providers from billing patients for out-of-network services beyond plan outlined in-network cost-sharing for emergency situations, post-emergency stabilization, and non-emergency in-network facility-based procedures where non-network services may

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The Audacity of Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban is known as a bold entrepreneur — a smart-thinking guy who cuts through all the nonsense to come up with the right solution. But how audacious was he at a recent White House forum when he suggested that federal and state programs as well as employers essentially cut the top three pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) out of the pharmacy spending equation altogether in favor of a transparent model? However difficult in the short term, I believe the provocative Cuban has the right answer and wants to aggressively go after it. The entrepreneur is a recent entrant into the world of healthcare. His Cost Plus Drug Company (CPD or Cost Plus) is taking the nation by storm by showing how going direct to the manufacturer — and then to the consumer — can make money and lower costs. He would argue it is not a new model in free

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The Change Healthcare Cyberattack:  What It Is and Its Implications

A number of Healthcare Labyrinth blog readers asked me if I would write on the Change Healthcare cyberattack and its implications. Below is what I have culled together over the past month and my thoughts about what happened and repercussions. I will attempt to write at a high level and not get too technical – in part because details are still scarce. Overview of what happened We are a month into the Change Healthcare cyberattack. On February 21, 2024, Change Healthcare reported that it was a victim of a cyberattack. It appears that the attack was a ransomware attack by the BlackCat organization and affiliates. It is known to target the healthcare industry. Change Healthcare may have paid a ransom of as much as $22 million, but this has not been confirmed. The attackers claimed about six terabytes of PHI and PII data were stolen (this could be tens of

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Strong Medicare Advantage Enrollment Growth Continued From February To March

In my January 22, 2024 Healthcare Labyrinth Blog ( https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/great-news-for-insurers-and-medicare-beneficiaries-january-2023-to-january-2024-medicare-advantage-growth-rebounds/ ), I told you about the exciting news of Medicare Advantage’s (MA) continued strong growth (from January 2023 to January 2024) as well as a nice recovery from a bit of a sluggish increase from January 2022 to January 2023. As I always do, I publish a follow-up blog in the first few months of each year given continuing growth outside of the main enrollment season from October 15 to December 7. This is because of a somewhat recent change that allows members enrolled in a MA plans to change to a different MA plan or go back to traditional Medicare (and also choose a standalone Part D (PDP) plan. This occurs from January 1 to March 31 of each year. Because of this, MA plans continue to advertise vigorously to attract additional members and there is net new enrollment

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The Trump-Biden Great Entitlement Debate

After promising not to touch Social Security and Medicare throughout his campaign, GOP 2024 candidate and former President Donald Trump seemingly reopened his views on the issue – only to have Biden attack him and then Trump having to clean up after. Here is the back and forth (this could be the only real debate we see from the candidates) : In comments to a journalist on whether he had changed his views on entitlements, Trump declared: “So first of all, there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements in terms of cutting and in terms of also the theft and the bad management of entitlements, tremendous bad management of entitlements. … There’s tremendous amounts of things and numbers of things you can do. So I don’t necessarily agree with the statement.” It seems reasonably clear that Trump likely was talking about cleaning up administration and fighting

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King Charles’ Cancer Diagnosis Shines A Light On Holes In The U.K.’s Healthcare System – And Ours

In early February, Buckingham Palace announced that King Charles has been diagnosed with cancer. As is often the case for the royals’ personal lives, not a lot is always shared. But the King and his now deceased mother should be congratulated for some of their openness. Like his mother’s announcements when her health was in question, the King’s announcement was meant to encourage everyone to take care and get preventive care performed. At the same time, the King’s announcement has shined a light on some of the problems in the United Kingdom’s healthcare system. As I have covered a few times in my blogs, the U.K. just celebrated its National Health Services’ 75th anniversary of its founding a few years after World War II ended. The U.K. took the socialized medicine approach, where the government funds, directs, runs, and largely provides healthcare services to its citizens. Some other nations in

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Joe Biden Goes On The Offensive With Healthcare Reforms

Looking for any angle to take the focus off his age and the economy overall, President Joe Biden and Democrats are now focusing on healthcare in the presidential election. In my mind, it is a very good strategy. As I have said in previous blogs, my Republican Party has a compassion gap when it comes to healthcare. Republicans have not formulated any real agenda on healthcare reform. Most tend to distance themselves from any talk of reform. More right-wing elements talk actively of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has helped in the neighborhood of forty million Americans (not counting those with pre-existing conditions and on their parents’ policies until age 26.) Whatever you think of some of the Democrats’ ideas, the party has actively embraced healthcare reform. Some ideas I clearly hate, such as Medicare for All. But others, like drug price reform and anti-trust activities, make a

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