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Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Medicare’s annual enrollment period started Monday, and health insurers are banking that a lot more seniors and people with disabilities will sign up for private Medicare Advantage plans instead of traditional Medicare coverage.

Driving the news: UnitedHealth Group executives yesterday said earnings per share next year will increase by roughly 13%, due in large part to MA's “extraordinary growth opportunity.”

  • Devoted Health, a startup founded by Todd and Ed Park, just raised $300 million in venture funding as it starts selling MA plans for the first time in eight Florida counties.
  • MA plans are all the rage among hospital-owned insurers, too.
  • MA enrollment increased 8% in 2018, and the feds expect a 12% enrollment bump for 2019.

The bottom line: Both Democrats and Republicans support MA, so the enrollment wave likely won’t subside in the near term. But there are still deep concerns about insurers gaming the program.

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On the next episode of "Axios on HBO," Axios co-founder Mike Allen interviews White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond.

  • Catch the full interview and much more on Sunday, February 28 at 6 pm. ET/PT on all HBO platforms.
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Italy tightens COVID restrictions as experts warn of growing prevalence of variants

Health workers prepare vaccine doses in Iseo, Italy. Photo: Stefano Nicoli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

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Health care in the New Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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