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An older coronavirus patient at a New York City hospital. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Federal payments to Medicare Advantage companies will increase by 1.66% in 2021, and several of the insurance program's policies are being waived or changed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Monday.

The bottom line: Medicare Advantage continues to grow at a lofty rate, and the Trump administration is protecting those health insurers through the pandemic and into next year.

By the numbers: The 1.66% payment rate hike for 2021 plans was higher than the proposed rate, but lower than what the industry got for 2020.

  • Depending on how many medical codes Medicare Advantage insurers attach to their elderly and disabled members, the average rate increase could be as high as 3.6% next year.

Between the lines: New regulatory changes, issued due to the coronavirus, are arguably more important than the payment increase.

  • CMS is "reprioritizing" audits of Medicare Advantage plans that looked for exaggerated coding โ€” a move that will temporarily give a reprieve to the industry that feared the audits would claw back billions of dollars.
  • Companies can expand telehealth options and waive copays this year for people who are affected by the outbreak.
  • The coronavirus is making it difficult for health plans and doctors to collect quality data; therefore, the federal government will be more lenient on data requirements for 2021 and 2022, which likely will protect bonus payments that plans receive.

Go deeper

Updated 14 mins ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Katie Ledecky in Tokyo. Photo: Ding Xu/Xinhua via Getty Images

๐Ÿ›‘: Simone Biles won't compete in individual vault or uneven bars

๐ŸŠโ€โ™€๏ธ: Katie Ledecky wins gold in women's 800m freestyle

๐ŸŠ: Caeleb Dressel breaks world record in men's 100m butterfly, 3rd gold

๐Ÿ—“: The Olympic events to watch today

๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: Britain wins gold in first-ever Olympic mixed 4x100m medley relay

๐ŸŽพ: Novak Djokovic defeated in Olympic semi-finals

๐Ÿ’ป: Japan tests teleporting games and "remote cheering"

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Simone Biles won't compete in individual vault or uneven bars Olympic finals

Photo: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

Simone Biles will not compete in theย individual vault or uneven bars finals at the Tokyo Olympics, USA Gymnastics announced Friday.

Why it matters: USA Gymnastics said Biles, who previously withdrew from the individual all-around and team finals to prioritize her mental health, will continue to be evaluated to determine if she'll compete in the balance beam or floor exercise events.

2 hours ago - Sports

American Katie Ledecky wins Olympic gold in women's 800m freestyle

USA's Katie Ledecky reacts after taking gold in the final of the women's 800m freestyle race. Photo: Odd Anderson/AFP via Getty Images

American superstar swimmer Katie Ledecky grabbed her second gold medal of this year's Olympic Games, winning the women's 800-meter freestyle race Saturday in Tokyo.

Driving the news: Ledecky, who holds the world record in the 800m freestyle, is considered one of the best women swimmers of all time. Saturday's final marks her third straight Olympic gold in the event.