RADAR on Medicare Advantage

  • News Briefs: New MA and Part D Rule Is Pending at OMB | Nov. 18, 2021

    The Biden administration’s first Medicare Advantage and Part D regulation is pending review at the Office of Management and Budget. The CMS final rule, titled “Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage Program and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program; MOOP and Cost Sharing Limits (CMS-4190),” was received on Nov. 10. It is not economically significant, according to the posting at RegInfo.gov.
  • Industry Groups Get in Front of Potential Medicare Advantage Cuts

    As progressives seek to keep some expansion of Medicare benefits in the president’s shrinking budget reconciliation package, industry-allied organizations have been building public-facing campaigns to protect Medicare Advantage from any “cuts.” Provisions to add dental and vision benefits to Medicare were removed from the latest text of the Build Back Better Act — likely giving MA plans less to worry about — while progressive lawmakers at press time were intent on getting drug pricing provisions into a final measure.

    In a move that was questioned by Kaiser Health News for being vague, Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) has been running a television commercial urging seniors to call their Congress members and ask them not to cut MA. KHN reported that the MA-focused research and advocacy organization has launched a $3 million TV, radio and online advertising campaign, citing advertising tracker AdImpact.

  • Iowa Medicaid Director Refutes Managed Care Audit Results

    As the Iowa Dept. of Human Services considers making changes to its managed Medicaid program, IA Health Link, State Auditor Rob Sand last month released a damning report that says the state’s 2016 transition to managed Medicaid led to an 891% increase in “illegally denied services or care.” The report also details how two managed care organizations violated provisions of their contracts with the Dept. of Human Services, although DHS says the report is flawed. Since 2019, only two insurers have been serving the program, but DHS is considering adding up to two more.

    Since Iowa transitioned the bulk of its fee-for-service Medicaid population to managed care under then-Gov. Terry Branstad (R), it’s been one drama after another — from providers not getting paid, to providers reportedly being allowed to keep overpayments, to MCOs incurring financial losses and dropping out — and Democrats want the whole thing scrapped. Sand, a Democratic former assistant attorney general, has been gunning for the program since his 2018 race for auditor and recently used a tour of the state to talk about some of the issues facing the program.

  • News Briefs

     CMS on Nov. 2 finalized changes intended to boost participation in the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP) expanded model. In the Calendar Year 2022 Physician Fee Schedule final rule, CMS finalized proposals to waive the Medicare enrollment fee for MDPP suppliers beyond the end of the public health emergency, shorten the program services period to one year by eliminating the second year of maintenance sessions, and redistribute all of the Ongoing Maintenance sessions phase performance payments to certain Core and Core Maintenance Session performance payments.

     The 2022 Medicare Advantage landscape is looking more robust than ever, with a record 3,834 MA plans available across the country, up 8% from 2021, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analysis. On average, beneficiaries will have 39 plans to choose from in their local market, compared with 33 plan options in 2021, KFF observed. However, because of consolidation in the stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan market, the typical Medicare beneficiary will have 23 PDP options next year, down from 30 in 2021, added KFF. Meanwhile, a separate analysis from Drug Channels found that 66% of MA-PD plans and 98% of stand-alone PDPs will have a preferred cost sharing network (i.e., preferred pharmacy network) in 2022. According to that analysis, 92% of the total 766 PDPs in 2022 are operated by one of eight major insurers, which all have preferred cost sharing networks.

  • Select Insurers Enhance Grocery Allowances, Nutrition Benefits for Duals Next Year

    As Medicare Advantage insurers promote an array of enhanced supplemental benefits for the 2022 plan year, grocery store allowances appear to be a staple among Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans. Here’s a sampling of what major D-SNP sponsors are marketing to eligible enrollees.

    Many of Anthem, Inc.’s affiliated MA plans will give qualifying members access to the Healthy Groceries Card, either as an embedded benefit or as part of the Essential Extras/Everyday Extras (EE) package. When offered as part of the EE package, members can select the card among a list of other benefits and receive a monthly allowance loaded on the card each month, explains a company spokesperson. The grocery card feature is part of new co-branded offerings with Kroger Health, which will be available in four regions in 2022 and include D-SNPs. Eligible recipients in Kentucky will receive the richest grocery card allowance, with up to $100 per month available to purchase nutritious food and health and wellness items from Kroger Family Stores. In Georgia, Ohio and Virginia, the Anthem-Kroger plans have a $75 monthly allowance. Qualifying members in all four regions can also access the plan’s Healthy Pantry Benefit, which offers up to 12 monthly sessions with a Kroger Health dietitian who can provide nutritional education support, and they can receive a monthly delivery of pantry staples. In addition, Kroger Health’s 2,200 pharmacies are in Anthem’s preferred network.

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