Health insurance lobbyists and plans have put a ton of work into defending the Medicare Advantage (MA) program from proposed cuts and rule changes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), but this week traditional Medicare gets community support of its own. And one insurer breaks from the pack to support the rule changes.
The back-and-forth between the government and MA plans has been eventful, at the very least. MA lobbyist Better Medicare Alliance went as far as paying for a Super Bowl ad that encouraged the White House to intervene against the rule changes, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra has publicly condemned “disinformation” from the insurance industry. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the MA program attracts fierce defenders because of its clear opportunity for financial growth — in 2022, the Medicare program spent $427 billion on Medicare Advantage.
And this week was no different. Over the past several weeks, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance lobby, has railed against the 2024 Advance Notice for Medicare Advantage. This week, AHIP offered a study of the potential impacts of the changes, which includes a reiteration of the threat of cuts to supplemental benefits.
The Medicare Rights Center (MRC), a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries, is trying to get a letter campaign off the ground to support the changes in the 2024 Advance Notice, Inside Health Policy reports. MRC also notes that insurers are unlikely to actually follow through on the supplemental benefits cuts they keep threatening.
This response and risk seems exaggerated, as following through would require plans to act against their own self-interest: beneficiaries would be more likely to reject pared back or more costly coverage, endangering plan enrollment and profits. Cutbacks are additionally unlikely because they would weaken plans’ most powerful marketing tool: supplemental benefits.
Meanwhile, the president and CEO of the second-largest MA carrier thinks that the changes made in the 2024 Advance Notice are good, actually. According to Modern Healthcare, Bruce Broussard told the audience at a TD Cowen conference this week that Humana tends to do better in years where there’s more pressure from the rate notice.
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