UnitedHealth 'really comfortable' with Medicare Advantage as competitors sweat

UnitedHealth Group executives said they're not planning any major shakeups to their Medicare Advantage business as other insurers plan to pull back their offerings in 2025. 

At a May 14 investor presentation, Brian Thompson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare, said medical cost trends and rates from CMS are in line with the company's expectations. 

"[I'm] really comfortable with what we'll put into the marketplace for next year, and pleased with how we're performing and what the opportunities are on the horizon for 2025," Mr. Thompson told investors. 

Medicare Advantage is facing two major headwinds: rising medical costs, and lower reimbursement rates from CMS. 

Two of UnitedHealth's major competitors, CVS Health and Humana, said they expect to lose members in 2025. Both companies said they plan to exit counties where they do not expect to be profitable, and may cut back benefits in some plans to account for rising costs. 

At the beginning of 2024, CMS implemented changes to the Medicare Advantage risk adjustment changes that payers opposed. The model is being phased in over three years.

UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty previously said the notice was "incredibly positive" for the company, because it spurred the company to "rechallenge ourselves on how we do things even more effectively going forward." 

UnitedHealth Group planned a long-term strategy to adjust to the rate notice, Mr. Witty told investors on May 14. 

"We took the time to plan out a three-year response strategy to that," Mr. Witty said. "We're in year one of the three year response strategy, and it's playing out the way we planned." 

The company spotted rising medical cost trends early enough to respond to them in their 2025 pricing, Mr. Witty said, and costs in 2024 are developing in-line with expectations. 

Analysts asked UnitedHealth executives if they expect to see growth as their competitors lose members. 

"Right now, trying to pin the tail on the donkey of who gets what next year, I'm not sure there's much mileage in that," Mr. Witty said. 

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