Health Plan Weekly

  • News Briefs

     Not long after his inauguration on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden issued a “regulatory freeze” memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies — a routine move for new administrations that temporarily halts last-minute regulations issued by the preceding administration pending review. The memo forbids any new rules from being proposed until they are approved by a department head designated by the new president, and it orders those rules not yet published in the Federal Register to be withdrawn for review. For those regulations that have been published but have not yet taken effect, the memo asks the department/agency leaders to consider postponing the rules’ effective dates for 60 days in order to review “any questions of fact, law, and policy the rules may raise.” Read the memo at

     Also on Jan. 20, Biden unveiled a list of individuals who will serve in acting capacities across his administration until the Senate confirms permanent leaders. Norris Cochran, who previously served as HHS deputy assistant secretary of budget, will be the acting HHS secretary pending the confirmation of Biden’s pick to lead the department, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Citing a Democratic aide familiar with Biden’s plans, Bloomberg Law reported that the Senate Finance Committee isn’t expected to take up the Becerra nomination until February. Read more at and

  • Trump Administration Gives MA Plans a Parting Gift With Hefty Payment Boost

    As one of its final moves before the Trump administration officially ended, CMS on Jan. 15 gave Medicare Advantage (MA) plans a 2022 payment increase that impressed Wall Street analysts.

    The 2022 Medicare Advantage and Part D Rate Announcement — which the administration released early in order to offer some additional guidance to plan sponsors during the COVID-19 pandemic — indicated that MA organizations will see an average reimbursement boost of 4.08% next year. That’s a significant improvement from the 2.8% rate increase that CMS projected in October, which Citi analyst Ralph Giacobbe suggested “represents a positive final parting shot by CMS and the Trump administration for the MA program, and de-risks any rate concerns for 2022.”

  • MCO Stock Performance, December 2020

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  • UnitedHealth Saw COVID Costs, Care Deferral Rise in 4Q

    In the fourth quarter of 2020, health care spending patterns experienced by the country’s largest health insurer “returned to seasonal baselines” even as COVID-19 cases surged all over the U.S. Such is one major takeaway from UnitedHealth Group’s fourth-quarter 2020 earnings report, which offers an instructive look at the unique ways that the pandemic continues to affect health care economics.

    During a Jan. 20 conference call with investors, UnitedHealth Chief Financial Officer John Rex explained that two opposing forces caused health care spending to align with historical levels. While the amount that UnitedHealth spent on COVID-19-related care increased compared with the third quarter, overall outpatient activity dipped below baseline as the end of the year drew closer, reflecting the fact that more people started deferring routine and elective care as coronavirus cases rose.

  • For Michigan Payer’s New President, Technology Is a ‘Priority’

    Health insurers face dozens of technological challenges in coming years, as federal regulations mandating electronic health record interoperability and price transparency mean that every health insurer has had to start developing new information technology and data capabilities.

    Praveen Thadani, the new president of Priority Health, has the background to do just that. Priority is a nonprofit payer with nearly 900,000 members, according to AIS Health’s Directory of Health Plans, making it the carrier with the second-highest membership in the state of Michigan. Thadani says he was drawn to Priority’s “amazing heritage of innovation” in accepting the role.

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