JPM21: Humana's Broussard expects Biden admin to be friendly to Medicare Advantage

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said he's confident the Medicare Advantage program enjoys broad, bipartisan support.

With a Democratic administration set to take over the White House in short order, payer execs at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference were questioned as to whether they were concerned that this could negatively impact MA.

The Affordable Care Act cut MA rates, which drew concerns from skittish investors that a Biden administration could make similar moves.

But Broussard said that the Medicare Advantage program of today is far different from the one that saw those cuts a decade ago. For one, he said, payment rates were "out of wack" with the Medicare fee-for-service population, typically between 110% and 130% of traditional Medicare.

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In addition, the MA population has grown significantly since then — and as such represents a much more sizable group of voters for legislators to consider. At the time, fewer than 20% of Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in the program.

Now, nearly 40% of beneficiaries are enrolled in MA, and that's only growing.

"What you've seen over the last decade is really a change in the number of people that are in the program — who are a voting bloc," Broussard said.

In addition, MA has significantly evolved in terms of quality, as at the time the star ratings program was not fully fleshed out, he said. Health plans have invested significantly in innovation to improve the quality of the member's experience with their plans, and in the quality of the care they receive.

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Medicare Advantage has also expanded significantly into underserved areas and plays a crucial role in addressing health inequities, which it was not circa 2010, Broussard said. 

"You've just seen an entirely different program in totality, even since 2015-2016," he said.

Broussard added that the incoming Biden administration will also have plenty on its plate already and that he doesn't see significant changes to Medicare Advantage as a likely early priority. Typical adjustments, such as to the star ratings, are more expected, however, and Humana is planning for those scenarios.

Overall, MA is a "really solid" program compared to a decade ago, Broussard said. Officials cite it frequently as a model for other ways to improve healthcare, he said.

"We hear Medicare Advantage is an example of a program that should be carried out in other parts of the healthcare system," Broussard said.