UPDATE: Oct. 5, 2021: Centene said Monday it is also expanding its Medicare Advantage footprint. The payer will enter three new states and 327 new counties, bringing its coverage area up 26%.
- Average Medicare Advantage premium rates are dropping 10% to $19 a month next year as nearly 30 million people are expected to be enrolled in the program, an increase of about 2.6 million from this year, CMS said in a Thursday press release.
- Cigna and UnitedHealthcare are expanding their MA footprints. Cigna is going into three new states and increasing its geographic coverage by 30%. UnitedHealthcare is entering 276 new counties, giving it access to 94% of Medicare members.
- Analysts at Cowen said in a note Friday that after reviewing benefits for the three largest plans from top insurers, it saw stability to modest improvements. That indicates conservative bids among the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MA program continues to grow at a record clip, as more Americans than ever have the privately run plans and as insurers find the lucrative market attractive.
Still, insurers could be hesitant to make big changes amid the many unknowns of the ongoing pandemic. While they've seen profits from patients delaying care, increases in COVID-19 inpatient charges and pent up deferred services could be a hit to their bottom line.
"We believe investors should conclude that plans bid 2022 conservatively and did not aggressively increase benefits despite the rich funding environment," the Cowen analysts said. "This should have positive implications for plan margins in 2022, with room to absorb a range of COVID and/or deferred utilization."
UnitedHealthcare, the largest private insurer in the U.S., continues to have the most MA enrollees and has plans in all 50 states. Cigna is expanding its offerings for the third year in a row and now has plans in more than half of the states.
The program suffers, however, from multiple fraud accusations. Major payers have been dinged by several settlements stemming from claims they received improper payments, often by claiming patients are sicker than they are.
CMS also said that MA Value-Based Insurance Design Model continues to grow, nearly doubling for next year over this year. The model will have 34 participating MA organizations, up from 14 in 2021.
Open enrollment for Medicare runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.