Jan 16, 2019

Medicare Advantage is growing, again

Data: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Almost 22.4 million seniors and people with disabilities are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans for 2019 — up 6.8% from the same point last year, according to preliminary federal data.

Why it matters: The growing enrollment total is in line with what the Trump administration expected and continues a decade-long trend of moving more of the traditional Medicare program into a privatized version run by health insurers.

Winners: Most insurers are winners to some degree, considering MA is "a friendly environment" right now for the industry. And the biggest companies are getting even bigger.

By the numbers: Together, three companies control more than half of the MA market.

  • UnitedHealth Group: 5.7 million enrollees, up 9%
  • Humana: 3.9 million, up 11%
  • Aetna (now owned by CVS Health): 2.1 million, up 23%

The big picture: The federal government is expected to pay MA insurers $250 billion this year. With profit margins hovering around 4% or higher for many companies, that equals billions of dollars of profit.

Yes, but: Federal prosecutors and auditors are scrutinizing the coding practices of MA insurers and may be willing to claw back overpayments soon.

What's next: February's enrollment data will provide an even clearer picture of how much the Medicare Advantage program grew for this year.

Go deeper

The health care industry's happy holidays

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The year-end spending bill in Congress epitomizes the power of health care interests.

The big picture: There are lots of goodies for the industry, while patients will get the worst kind of holiday surprise — more medical bills.

Go deeperArrowDec 20, 2019

The health care debate we ought to be having

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Scott Eisen/Getty Images and Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Americans worry a lot about how to get and pay for good health care, but the 2020 presidential candidates are barely talking about what's at the root of these problems: Almost every incentive in the U.S. health care system is broken.

Why it matters: President Trump and most of the Democratic field are minimizing the hard conversations with voters about why health care eats up so much of each paycheck and what it would really take to change things.

Cigna's big divestiture on its life and disability insurance business

Photo: Julia Rendleman/Getty Images for Eventive Marketing

Cigna finally pulled the trigger on selling its life and disability insurance business, netting $5.3 billion after taxes from New York Life.

The big picture: Health insurers have been divesting products that have less to do with actual medical care and instead combining with companies that sell drug benefits

Go deeperArrowDec 19, 2019