Medicare Advantage in the headlines: 9 recent updates

Challenges loom for Medicare Advantage in 2024, with payers reporting rising medical costs and lower growth expectations for the year. 

Here are nine Medicare Advantage updates Becker's has reported since Jan. 22. 

  1. A group of 61 senators wrote to CMS, urging the agency to ensure stability in "payment and policy" in Medicare Advantage in 2025. A smaller group of lawmakers urged more drastic action to reduce overpayments in the program. 

  2. Medicare Advantage may not have the profitability it once did for insurers. In a January analysis shared with Becker's, Moody's analysts wrote that the program "seems to be losing some of its luster," facing a significant increase in medical costs and lower reimbursement rates from CMS. 

  3. CMS is seeking input on improving transparency in the Medicare Advantage program. The agency issued a request for information Jan. 25, seeking public feedback on data collection in all aspects of the program, including prior authorization, provider networks and directories, supplemental benefit use, quality and outcomes, and the effect of vertical integration.

  4. Humana reported a $541 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2023, facing what executives called an unprecedented increase in Medicare Advantage medical costs. 

  5. Medicare Advantage's annual enrollment period is over, but the marketing tactics used to sell older adults on the plans are still under scrutiny in Washington. Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee and a frequent critic of MA marketing, penned a letter to the CEOs of five third-party marketing services, seeking information on how the companies use insurance agents and lead generators to reach older adults. 

  6. Elevance Health is not expecting its Medicare Advantage membership to grow in 2024. On a call with investors, Elevance Health CEO Gail Boudreaux said the company had "greater than expected" attrition in some markets, and it expects its MA membership numbers to remain roughly the same in 2024. 

  7. A state committee recommended Delaware cast aside any plans to provide retired state employees health benefits through Medicare Advantage. 

  8. The Medicare Payment and Advisory Commission is considering standardizing the supplemental benefits Medicare Advantage insurers can offer, to make it easier for beneficiaries to compare plans. 

  9. UnitedHealth Group is still the largest Medicare Advantage carrier in the country, while CVS Health recorded 15% growth in MA membership during the annual enrollment period, according to an analysis published by Baltimore Health Analytics. See payers ranked by Medicare Advantage membership here, and payers who lost members in 2023 here

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