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Expand chart
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

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.

The perils of organizing underground

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Researchers see one bright spot as far-right extremists turn to private and encrypted online platforms: Friction.

Between the lines: For fringe organizers, those platforms may provide more security than open social networks, but they make it harder to recruit new members.

Resurrecting Martin Luther King's office

King points to Selma, Alabama on a map at his Southern Christian Leadership Conference office in Atlanta in January 1965. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Contributor

Efforts to save the office where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., planned some of the most important moments of the civil rights movement are hitting roadblocks amid a political stalemate.

Why it matters: The U.S. Park Service needs to OK agreements so a developer restoring the historic Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Atlanta — which once housed King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference — can tap into private funding and begin work.