Cigna execs say rise in MA utilization 'consistent' with expectations

Multiple major health plans have warned that utilization, particularly in Medicare Advantage (MA), is set to rise in the latter part of this year.

Cigna executives echoed those sentiments Thursday morning on the company's second-quarter earnings call but said that the insurer is well-positioned to weather that growth.

"We planned and priced for more normalized utilization levels in 2023, and our claims experience is largely consistent with that expectation," said Chief Financial Officer Brian Evanko.

Evanko said that in its MA book, the insurer has seen higher utilization for outpatient and professional services so far this year, but those trends "should be viewed in the context of what we had forecasted and priced for."

Cigna's 2024 bids reflect the elevated utilization in these areas, Evanko added. The insurer in particular expects to see the trend continue for outpatient and professional surgeries for orthopedic and cardiovascular needs.

The Cigna Group, which includes both Cigna Healthcare and Evernorth Health Services, reported $1.5 billion in profit for the quarter along with $48.6 billion in revenue. Revenues were up year over year from the $45.5 billion posted in the second quarter of 2022, but profits dipped slightly from $1.6 billion.

Through the first six months of 2023, Cigna reported $95.1 billion in revenue and $2.7 billion in profit. By comparison, the company posted $89.5 billion in revenue and $2.8 billion in profit in the first half of 2022.

Cigna Healthcare had 19.5 million members across its medical plans, and Evernorth's Express Scripts reported 98.6 million pharmacy customers.

Cigna expects at least $190 billion in revenue for the year as well as $24.70 in earnings per share.

Also on the call, investors asked the insurer's top brass about the rising demand for GLP-1 drugs, which can help patients with diabetes or obesity lose weight. Some payers have restricted coverage for these therapies as interest grows for recreational use.

Eric Palmer, CEO of Evernorth, said these drugs are "definitely top of mind" for the company's clientele.

"There's been a meaningful uptick in utilization here," he said.

He said the team recently rolled out a new program, called inCircleRx, for patients with diabetes, obesity and other conditions who may use these drugs, as they are often comorbid. Bringing together a plan design with clinical supports and key resources drives improved outcomes and lower costs.

 "GLP-1 and the broader cardiac, obesity, diabetes space is a real area of focus," he said.