Radar on Medicare Advantage

  • No News Is Bad News for MAOs Hoping to See Pay Hike in 2025

    The April 1 release of final rate projections for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans was largely uneventful as CMS maintained the same all-in estimate of what plans can expect to see, on average, in terms of a reimbursement update next year. But the market did not respond well: MA-exposed insurers’ shares took a tumble and equity analysts warned that a revenue decline — before coding trend — could lead to benefit cuts and footprint reductions.

    Industry trade groups did not respond favorably, either. In a statement released immediately after the rate announcement, AHIP President and CEO Mike Tuffin said the finalized policies would “put even more pressure on the benefits and premiums of 33 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries who will be renewing their coverage this fall,” particularly as the MA and Part D programs face regulatory and legislative changes.

  • As ‘Focused Audits’ Get Underway, Plans May Struggle to Meet UM Conditions

    Thanks to a final rule published just one year ago, Medicare Advantage plans as of Jan. 1 were expected to meet new constraints when it comes to applying their utilization management (UM) policies, including prior authorization. CMS has said it aims to assess UM-related performance of plans serving 88% of beneficiaries this year, and it intends to accomplish this through both routine program audits and “focused audits.” According to compliance experts, the volume of audit activity since CMS began sending engagement letters in late February suggests the agency is eager to meet its goal, but it may not like what it finds.

  • Part D GLP-1 Spend Soars as CMS Makes Key Coverage Decision

    Medicare is spending billions on GLP-1s, the groundbreaking diabetes drugs that are now seeing skyrocketing demand for their ability to help patients lose weight. While Medicare Part D plans are prohibited from covering weight loss therapies, a new FDA decision for Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy (semaglutide) could reshape the coverage landscape for some GLP-1s — and drive Part D spending even higher. 

    A March 22 analysis from KFF found that Part D spending on Novo’s Ozempic (semaglutide) alone reached $4.6 billion in 2022, a 77% increase from the prior year and a 207% increase from 2020. (Novo brands its injectable semaglutide as Ozempic for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and as Wegovy for weight loss.) KFF found that Part D spending on GLP-1s has grown exponentially every year since 2018. Eli Lilly’s Trulicity (dulaglutide), an older GLP-1 that hit the market in 2014, saw the second-highest gross Part D spending among all therapies in 2022 at $6.2 billion. Ozempic, meanwhile, sat at No. 6. KFF speculated that both Ozempic and Novo’s oral semaglutide Rybelsus could be selected for Medicare drug price negotiation as early as 2025. 

  • Wegovy Coverage Question Puts Part D Plans in Tricky Position

    In newly released guidance, CMS told Medicare Part D plans that they’re allowed to cover weight-loss drugs if they’ve been approved for another medical use — a description fitting Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy (semaglutide) after it recently received an FDA nod for preventing major heart problems.

    So far, CVS Health Corp., Elevance Health, Inc. and Kaiser Permanente have said their Part D plans will cover Wegovy for its newest approved use: reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people who have cardiovascular disease and who meet body-weight criteria, the Wall Street Journal reported on March 28.

    For other insurers that sell Part D plans, the decision about whether to cover Wegovy represents an additional challenge to grapple with, as they’re also facing significant regulatory changes.

  • AHIP Panelists: Improving Aging in Place Requires Cross-Stakeholder Support

    When it comes to aging in place, seniors in the U.S. have a hodgepodge of programs and services available to them, and health plans can be a connector to and integrator of those services in their respective markets. Speakers at AHIP’s 2024 Medicare, Medicaid, Duals & Commercial Markets Forum, held March 12 to 14 in Baltimore, agreed that health plans can also play a valuable role in driving innovations across the Medicare and Medicaid programs, such as providing emergency and acute care in the home, supporting family caregivers, and advocating for policy solutions.

    Before CMS in 2020 introduced the Hospital Without Walls program enabling health systems to provide acute hospital care in the home, integrated insurer-provider Kaiser Permanente (KP) launched the Advanced Care at Home (ACAH) model. One of several KP initiatives that support aging in place, ACAH leverages expert care teams and technology to provide 24/7 physician-led acute care and coordinate patients’ recovery in the familiar setting of the home. Eligible patients are identified in urgent care, emergency and/or inpatient settings but must also meet certain social and clinical criteria, explained Rachna Pandya, regional strategic implementation leader of Medicare operations and strategy, during the session, “Best Practices to Support Aging in Place.”

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