Mar 6, 2024 - Health

CVS-Aetna leads for-profit insurers' Medicare Advantage enrollment surge

Enrollment changes for largest for-profit Medicare Advantage plans
Data: Chartis; Chart: Axios Visuals

For-profit insurers led by CVS Health's Aetna are gobbling up the majority of new Medicare Advantage patients, despite new restrictions on marketing, higher medical costs and other headwinds, a new analysis of enrollment data found.

Why it matters: An aging population and the perceived attractiveness of MA plans over traditional Medicare bode well for the big insurers, while nonprofit health plans like Blue Cross Blue Shield are seeing market share slip.

By the numbers: 82% of this year's 1.7 million new beneficiaries went to for-profit plans, according to the analysis by health care consultancy Chartis.

  • Aetna garnered nearly a third of new Medicare Advantage enrollees while traditional MA powerhouses UnitedHealthcare and Humana also grew.
  • UnitedHealthcare remained at No. 1 this year with more than 9.4 million enrollees while Humana came in second, with just under 6 million enrollees.

Like last year, Aetna came in third place.

  • But it added 544,000 enrollees from 2023 to 2024, growing to 3.9 million members this year. The bulk of those came in during open enrollment, when insurers can advertise their offerings to seniors.
  • "This shows a very concerted effort from Aetna to be a real player in the space," said Nick Herro, a director at Chartis.

Between the lines: Two other big MA players, Centene and Elevance, lost members over the past year.

  • Centene's enrollment dip was expected, as the insurer has earned low quality ratings over the past couple of years, Chartis noted.

What we're watching: CVS/Aetna suggested in January that it could cut MA benefits next year after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed a small cut to plans' base payment for 2025.

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