Medicare Advantage plans grow despite payment cuts

Only one day after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it would lower payment rates for Medicare Advantage plans, a new analysis finds enrollment in the program continues to grow.

Insurers selling Medicare Advantage plans have boosted their membership by 8.9 percent to 15.9 million enrollees, up from 14.6 million in 2013. Medicare Advantage enrollment accounts for roughly 30 percent of all eligible Medicare beneficiaries, according to Avalere Health, which analyzed enrollment data through Jan. 10.

"MA plans continue to increase enrollment by finding new ways to offer attractive benefits and value to beneficiaries," Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson said in the analysis.

What's more, enrollment has grown even though Medicare Advantage saw a drop in particpating plans for 2014.

"If current trends continue, plans choosing to compete in areas with growing enrollment and fewer plan options stand to gain market share," Avalere Executive Vice President Matt Eyles said. "Medicare Advantage and Part D plans face major changes on the horizon. Policy changes in the recently proposed Medicare rule and other potential changes in the draft call letter could further shake up the market."

The news comes amid a strong push from Medicare Advantage insurers, the industry's lobbying group and lawmakers to prevent CMS from cutting payments to the program. America's Health Insurance Plans launched a multimillion-dollar campaign in January to urge CMS to keep payment rates steady in 2015, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote in a letter that CMS shouldn't cut Medicare Advantage rates.

To learn more:
- here's the Avalere Health analysis