Centene and WellCare Health Plans are the latest to report a surge in seniors signing up for private Medicare coverage administered by health insurers.
Centene and WellCare, which reported earnings Tuesday, have been expanding beyond their historic business lines dominated by administering Medicaid benefits for states into Medicare Advantage. Centene also has a large business offering subsidized individual coverage offered under the Affordable Care Act.
But these health insurers are joining the parade of health plans and startups taking advantage of more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day and rule changes administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow private insurers to offer more benefits in Medicare Advantage plans they sell.
Centene’s enrollment in Medicare plans, including Medicare Advantage, rose 25% to 416,900 in the fourth quarter compared to 333,700 in the fourth quarter of 2017. Meanwhile, WellCare reported Tuesday its enrollment in Medicare plans including Medicare Advantage increased nearly 10%, or by 49,000, to 545,000 in the fourth quarter of last year compared to 496,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Such growth reported by Centene and WellCare Tuesday comes following double-digit percentage growth in Medicare Advantage enrollment already released by Anthem and UnitedHealth Group. Humana reports its earnings later this week and Aetna, now owned by CVS Health, reports its fourth quarter results later this month.
Medicare Advantage plans contract with the federal government to provide extra benefits and services to seniors, such as disease management and nurse help hotlines, with some even providing vision and dental care and wellness programs. CMS’ rule changes to allow Medicare Advantage plans to provide broader coverage in the future is also expected to boost enrollment. L.E.K. Consulting has projected Medicare Advantage enrollment will rise to 38 million, or 50% market penetration by the end of 2025.
The rising enrollment in privately-administered Medicare Advantage plans comes as members of Congress and Democrats running for president in 2020talk about expanding Medicare to all Americans. Some of the plans include allowing private insurers to maintain their role offering Medicare Advantage but others urging “Medicare for All” including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Kamala Harris of California have talked about a diminished role for the health insurance industry in administering Medicare benefits.
Date: Feb 05, 2019