UnitedHealth Group

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.

Health insurers collect big Medicare overpayments from bad guesses

Prescription drugs on a shelf in a pharmacy.
Taxpayers spent $100 billion on Medicare Part D in 2017. Photo: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

From 2006 to 2015, health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers that run Medicare's prescription drug program reaped $9.1 billion in additional taxpayer funds because they overestimated how much their members would spend on drugs, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.

The bottom line: Medicare's complex rules allowed companies — including UnitedHealth Group, CVS Health and Humana — to pocket most or all of those overestimated funds instead of paying them back to the federal government.

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