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Expand chart
Data: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

More than 3 million people are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that is owned by a hospital system or physician group, which is up more than 20% from 2015, according to an Axios analysis of federal data.

What it means: Seniors are increasingly choosing Medicare Advantage instead of traditional Medicare, and hospitals want a piece of those Medicare Advantage dollars as their other revenues stagnate or grow slowly.

Context: Seniors often switch to Medicare Advantage plans for perks like gym membership or vision coverage, in exchange for agreeing to a more limited network of hospitals and doctors.

The details: We tracked Medicare Advantage enrollment growth for 43 hospital systems and physician groups from 2015 to 2018 using data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Here's what we found:

  • More than 3 million people have a Medicare Advantage plan owned by a hospital or doctor system as of January 2018, compared with 2.5 million in 2015.
  • Kaiser Permanente, the dominant provider and insurance system on the West Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic, covers more than half (almost 1.6 million) of that total.
  • The 10 systems with the most Medicare Advantage members represent a vast majority (84%) of the enrollment in provider-owned plans.

Yes, but: The 3 million people in provider plans only represent about 1 out of 7 Medicare Advantage enrollees. And the 20% growth rate for those plans was actually slower than the 24% enrollment uptick for the overall Medicare Advantage program over the same period.

  • This means most people are still buying Medicare Advantage plans from the big for-profit players like UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna.
  • But health care is local. The prevalence of provider-owned Medicare plans indicates hospitals and doctors with strong brands continue to attract people who otherwise would go to a large insurance company — leading to new revenue and profit.

Go deeper: The shift in Medicare spending.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Social Democrats' win in Germany could shake up Europe

Olaf Scholz caught the bouquet on Sunday. Photo: Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty

BERLIN Angela Merkel's political farewell was spoiled Sunday night when the Social Democrats (SPD) narrowly claimed victory in Germany's elections, just four years after suffering their worst loss since World War II.

Why it matters: The stunning political comeback could swing the balance of power in Germany leftward after 16 years of rule by Merkel's conservative bloc, and it could lay the groundwork for a more ambitious European Union.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans sink short-term government funding, debt limit bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Republicans on Monday voted down the House-passed bill to fund the government through Dec. 3 and raise the debt limit.

Why it matters: Congress is just 72 hours away from a potential shutdown, so now comes Democrats' Plan B. Democratic leadership is expected strip the short-term funding bill of language about raising the debt limit — the part that Republicans' reject — in order to pass a bill before federal agencies close down on Friday.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Laurene Powell Jobs' $3.5 billion climate campaign

Laurene Powell Jobs, president of Emerson Collective, is investing $3.5 billion in her new climate-action group, the Waverley Street Foundation — all to be spent in 10 years, as a way to show urgency on the issue.

  • Then the group will sunset.

The big picture: The foundation "will focus on initiatives and ideas that will aid underserved communities who are most impacted by climate change," an official tells Axios.