Good morning. If you're looking for something heart-wrenching but important to read, here it is.
Today's word count is 697, or a 3-minute read.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Roughly 24.4 million seniors and people with disabilities were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan as of this month, a 9.4% jump from the same time in 2019, according to the latest federal data analyzed by Axios' Bob Herman.
Why it matters: Medicare Advantage continues to grow at high rates despite concerns over the program's higher spending and evidence that insurers are making people appear sicker than they are, Bob writes.
By the numbers: The 9.4% annual enrollment growth is well above the 6.8% growth rate in 2019, and people flocked to pretty much every insurer selling Medicare Advantage plans this past season — from startups to well-established carriers.
Startups including Devoted Health, Clover Health and Alignment Healthcare still have small MA footprints compared to the traditional insurance carriers, but they recorded sizable enrollment gains for this year.
The elephant in the room: The Congressional Budget Office raised new concerns about MA spending in its latest economic outlook.
Go deeper: Where Medicare Advantage is most popular
Private-equity firms accelerated their acquisitions of doctors' practices between 2013 and 2016, according to a new JAMA study.
Why it matters: "Private equity firms expect greater than 20% annual returns, and these financial incentives may conflict with the need for longer-term investments in practice stability, physician recruitment, quality, and safety," the author writes.
By the numbers: 355 physician practices were acquired by private-equity firms over the time period, a small portion of total practices. But industry reports suggest that the growth kept up in 2017 and 2018.
Between the lines: The role of private equity in health care has fallen under heavier scrutiny recently, as Congress examines the billing practices of physician groups that are frequently private equity-owned.
Covered California, the state's Affordable Care Act exchange, announced yesterday that new enrollment rose 41% in 2020 after the state reinstated the individual mandate and expanded the law's insurance subsidies.
If California is acting as a real-life test case for what happens when policymakers beef up the ACA, the experiment seems to be going well, at least in terms of coverage numbers.
Yes, but: The number of enrollees who renewed their coverage was down 8%, which "could be due to the strong economy. It could also signal a problem retaining consumers due to high costs," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt tweeted.
The big picture: Even the healthiest of marketplaces have had limited success in controlling health care costs. That's likely part of the reason why most Democrats are ready to move beyond the ACA only a decade after it passed.
Go deeper: California's new health care milestones
Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images
Sanofi Pasteur is entering the race to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, partnering with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Axios' Marisa Fernandez writes.
Unions across the country are at odds over Medicare for All, with some saying it would free them up to focus on wages and working conditions, while others argue that the health benefits they've already won are better, Politico reports.
The big picture: The fight reflects the larger battle over Medicare for All, but is particularly acute in union-heavy states like California, New York and Michigan.
This has all come to a head in Nevada, after the Culinary Workers Union slammed Medicare for All and didn't endorse any of the candidates, providing a portrait of how divisive the issue is within one of the Democratic party's most loyal institutions.