Radar on Medicare Advantage

  • MAOs Should Get Member Feedback, Rethink PA as Post-Acute Outcomes Decline

    Medicare Advantage members using post-acute care services are reporting less favorable outcomes than their fee-for-service counterparts, according to a new study published in JAMA Health Forum. Not only are outcomes worse, MA beneficiaries are also using fewer post-acute care services than those enrolled in traditional Medicare (TM), which study authors said could be linked to payers’ tight prior authorization (PA) requirements.

    The study authors explained that prior research on this topic, which has generally shown favorable post-acute outcomes in MA, relied largely on administrative data, which can’t capture individual beneficiaries’ perception of quality or health status. That’s why they looked to self-reported data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study, focusing on seniors aged 70 and older who lived in community settings (rather than nursing homes). “Examining self-reported patient outcomes is key to ensuring that the MA program adequately meets beneficiaries’ needs, particularly since there is evidence that MA enrollees are treated at lower-quality SNFs [skilled nursing facilities],” authors wrote.

  • News Briefs: Switch Rate From FFS Medicare to MA Peaked at 7.8% in 2021

    As Medicare Advantage attracts a greater share of Medicare-eligible enrollees, switching from fee-for-service Medicare to MA has been on the rise since 2010 and peaked at 7.8% in 2021, according to new research published in Health Affairs. Researchers used data from the CMS Medicare Enrollment Database and the Risk Adjustment Processing System, and their primary objective was to understand where the bulk of new MA membership is coming from (i.e., FFS Medicare vs. new-to-Medicare) and those individuals' health profiles. After 2010, switching from MA to FFS Medicare consistently declined while switching in the other direction increased, with the greatest difference in rates occurring in 2021, when just 1.2% of individuals left MA for FFS Medicare, according to the analysis. (The switching rate was defined as the percentage of switchers out of the total number of switchers and stayers in either FFS Medicare or MA.) Between December 2021 and December 2022, the overall switching rate from FFS to MA averaged 7.4%, and men had a higher switching rate than women, researchers observed. During that time, the switch rate from FFS to MA was highest for Black beneficiaries (15.6%), closely followed by Hispanic beneficiaries (15.0%), and the lowest rate was among white enrollees (6.4%). Researchers noted their analysis was descriptive in nature and that they were not able to discern the underlying factors driving the observed switching patterns, such as aggressive marketing or attractive plan benefits. Moreover, the analysis did not differentiate between voluntary and involuntary switching. As the MA program continues to grow, however, “understanding reasons for switching will become important,” they observed.
  • Medicaid MCOs Try Multiple Touchpoints to Boost Redetermination Awareness

    Effective April 1, states were allowed to begin disenrolling people from Medicaid who no longer qualify after a multiyear pause during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). Yet data from the federal government suggests many people are losing coverage for procedural reasons, and surveys show a concerning lack of awareness regarding the redetermination process. Medicaid managed care organizations say they are working to supplement outreach efforts from state and federal agencies and are trying a variety of tactics to activate impacted members, including text messaging and notifications at the pharmacy. Since the start of redeterminations, CMS has clarified that states may rely on MCOs to assist enrollees with completing and submitting renewal forms and even pay them for this type of work.

    KFF estimates that at least 4.58 million Medicaid beneficiaries have been disenrolled as of Aug. 14, with three quarters of disenrollments occurring for procedural reasons. HHS had previously estimated that 8.2 million people will no longer qualify for Medicaid once redeterminations resumed and find other coverage, while 6.8 million Medicaid enrollees could lose coverage despite still being eligible. 

  • mPulse Infuses Behavioral Science Into Text-Based Outreach to Medicaid Members

    As Medicaid managed care organizations look to assist states with ensuring enrollees maintain coverage throughout the redetermination process, text messaging is often seen an effective way to reach members whose only method of communication may be a smartphone. During an Aug. 9 webinar hosted by Medicaid Health Plans of America, mPulse Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Brendan McClure said the technology company has reached out to more than 7 million members this year on behalf of its Medicaid plan clients.

    The engagement solutions provider divides its phone-based outreach efforts into two main categories:

  • Elevance Adds to Research Showing Supplemental Benefits Are Crucial for Duals

    Supplemental benefits are popular among Medicare Advantage members, but they’re particularly valuable for Medicare-Medicaid dual eligibles, suggests a new report from Elevance Health, Inc.’s Public Policy Institute. Following legislation and regulatory changes in 2018 and 2019 that established new types of supplemental benefits and expanded the definition of what CMS considers “primarily health-related,” payers began to offer supplemental benefits that target members’ health-related social needs (HRSNs), such as food insecurity and lack of access to transportation. Elevance is one of the first payers to release any data on the uptake and utilization of these benefits, while research on duals’ unique social needs and supplemental benefit use continues to emerge. A July 2023 study from Humana Inc., for example, found that 80% of duals in a sample population of its MA enrollees reported experiencing at least one HRSN, vs. 48% of non-duals. Deft Research in its 2023 Dual Eligible Retention Study, meanwhile, found that duals “absolutely depend” on their supplemental benefits and are likely to switch plans if not satisfied with their supplemental benefits.
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