Cordani: Cigna improves Medicare Advantage star ratings performance for 5th straight year

As Medicare Advantage open enrollment continues, Cigna executives say that the insurer is in a great position to continue pushing for growth in the market.

CEO David Cordani said on the company's earnings call Thursday that 89% of its customers in Medicare Advantage are enrolled in plans with four or more stars from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a measure of the plans' quality.

"This is the highest level we've ever achieved, and it marks the fifth year in a row that we've improved our stars performance," Cordani said.

Cigna has targeted MA as a key area for growth over the past several years, and has set aggressive, double-digit goals for expansion. For the 2022 plan year, the insurer added three new states and 108 new counties to its Medicare Advantage footprint.

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In addition, Cigna has grown the number of customers in its Affordable Care Act exchange plans by 47% through the first three quarters of this year, Cordani said.

"A substantial portion of this growth did come from the extended special enrollment period," Cordani said. "We do expect this will moderate in 2022."

However, he said that the insurer is looking to build on the momentum from the COVID-19 SEP by its new markets. Cigna is entering the exchanges in three new states and adding 93 counties to its footprint.

Cigna wrapped up third-quarter earnings for major national payers Thursday morning, where it reported $1.6 billion in profit for the quarter.

The results surpassed Wall Street expectations, according to Zacks Investment Research. Cigna also brought in $44.3 billion in revenue in the third quarter, according to the earnings report, which also beat analysts' projections.

Both figures were up significantly year over year, Cigna said. In the third quarter of 2020, the insurer earned $1.4 billion in profit and brought in $41 billion in revenue.

"Our strong results from the quarter demonstrate how we are advancing our growth strategy and delivering for our customers, patients, clients, and provider partners," Cordani said in a statement. "The balanced profile of our business, our sustained investments in innovation, and our capital flexibility position us well for continued growth the rest of this year and over the long-term."

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Through three quarters, Cigna has raked in $128.4 billion in revenue and $4.2 billion in profit.

Pharmacy benefit membership grew to 103.6 million through the first nine months of 2021, an "organic" increase of 4.8 million so far this year on the back of strong retention and new sales, Cigna said.

Cigna has also added 368,000 members in its medical benefits through the third quarter, according to the report, bringing its total medical membership to 17 million.

The company's Evernorth subsidiary saw double-digit revenue growth in the third quarter, bringing in $33.6 billion, up 13% from $29.8 billion in the prior year quarter. Cigna said this segment saw notable growth in specialty pharmacy in the third quarter as well as its retail network.

Revenues for the medical benefits business were up 9% year over year, growing to $10.5 billion compared to $9.6 billion in the third quarter of 2020. Cigna said much of that increase is backed by growth in Medicare Advantage and the individual market.

Due to the results, Cigna raised its guidance and now expects $20.35 in earnings per share for 2021. The insurer expects full-year revenues of $172 billion.