Medicare Advantage insurers enrolled 15M members

Medicare Advantage plans enrolled 15.1 million as of December, up nearly 1.3 million members from the previous year. Despite conservative growth strategies, pricing concerns, reductions in service areas and the loss of 25 Medicare Advantage plans, the remaining 260 insurers saw enrollment growth of more than 9 percent year-over-year, according to an analysis by Mark Farrah Associates.

Nine insurers--UnitedHealth, Humana, Kaiser Foundation, Aetna, WellPoint, Cigna, Highmark, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and WellCare--cover more than 250,000 Medicare Advantage members each, accounting for more than 65 percent of the market. And UnitedHealth and Humana combined control almost 38 percent of the market.

The analysis found  four insurers, Aetna, UnitedHealth, Humana and WellCare, increased their Medicare Advantage enrollment by more than 100,000 members. Aetna, for example, saw strong membership gains as a result of buying Coventry in 2012.

Despite the strong membership growth for Medicare Advantage plans, some analysts predict slower enrollment gains in the future for these insurers. That's primarily because insurers have cut benefits, narrowed their networks and exited some markets, making it harder for them to attract new consumers, Citi's Carl McDonald said last week in a research, the Associated Press reported.

UnitedHealth, for example, is moving forward with plans to drop 19 percent of doctors from its Medicare Advantage network in Connecticut.

As a result of steps like this, McDonald thinks enrollment growth will reduce to about 5 percent this year, amounting to about 750,000 new members. But he does expect most Medicare Advantage members will continue coverage with their current plans.

To learn more:
- here's the Mark Farrah Associates analysis
- read the AP article

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