Cigna unveils big MA growth plans for 2nd year in a row

Cigna is launching its largest Medicare Advantage expansion to date in 2021, growing its geographic footprint into five new states and 67 new counties.

It will offer new MA plans in Ohio, Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah and New Mexico, the insurer announced Thursday morning, with the growth representing a 22% increase in its county footprint from 2020. In total, it will offer plans across 369 counties in 23 states for the 2021 plan year.

Cigna will also expand its preferred provider organization offerings in 154 counties in its existing markets, the insurer said.

Brian Evanko, president of Cigna's U.S. government business, told Fierce Healthcare the company sees both significant tailwinds in MA across the industry and more company-specific growth opportunities driving the ongoing expansion.

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He said that the momentum for growth will continue for the next several years, with the goal of reaching more than 50% of Medicare beneficiaries with a Cigna MA plan.

"This is far and away our largest expansion we’ve ever done in the MA space," Evanko said. "And we think, more than ever, making our offerings affordable, predictable and simple, especially given the pandemic, is extremely important to seniors."

Cigna also said that for a majority of members, their premiums will either decrease or stay flat between 2020 and 2021, and there will be $0 premium options available in each market.

Plan options for 2021 will also all include telehealth benefits, including behavioral health visits conducting via audio or video, at no cost. In addition, Cigna will offer virtual physical therapy for the first time, allowing members to receive such care at home.

Cigna is aiming to ensure MA beneficiaries have access to care in the ways that best suit them, providing options for seniors who embrace telehealth and for those who prefer to stick with in-person visits, Evanko said.

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Evanko said Cigna will also continue all of its existing supplemental benefits, which include both hyperlocal solutions, such as a stipend for air conditioners for Texas beneficiaries, and benefits offered across all MA plans, such as a food delivery option for people post-discharge.

Cigna does direct consumer surveying as well as gathers data from its network providers to determine which supplemental benefits to roll out, and then it conducts significant "test and learn" before bringing those options to scale, he said.

The food delivery program, for instance, in which members are offered seven days of hot meal delivery after being discharged from the hospital, was used by 60% of hospitalized members in 2020, he said.

Part of meeting members where they are also means identifying those who may not be the right fit for Medicare Advantage, he said. Cigna offers Medicare supplement and Part D plans in these markets as well and will work with members to determine the right path for them.

"We have a view that choice is extremely important," Evanko said.