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AP file photo

Private health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers that sell Medicare Advantage and Part D plans will receive an average payment bump of 0.25% in 2018 from the federal government, according to new guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

When factoring in how health plans document and code the medical diagnoses of their seniors and disabled members, the average payment rate will go up by 2.75%. That medical coding has been the focus of some criticism, as a Center for Public Integrity investigation concluded that Medicare insurers are manipulating the process to gain more taxpayer revenue.

No shocking policy moves: The government also decided to keep the phased-in cuts to employer-based Medicare Advantage plans, which the industry has aggressively fought.

Between the lines: Although this is the Trump administration's first foray into Medicare policy, this notice was mostly crafted and prepared by the Obama administration. The final policies for 2018 Medicare Advantage and Part D, two of the fastest growing health care programs, will come out April 3.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.