H.O.P.E. NOTE: As we advocate for National Improved Medicare for All, we must be aware that private health insurers are increasing their presence in Medicare through the so-called Medicare Advantage plans. We must be clear that we are advocating for a public system that excludes private insurance plans from covering what the system covers. No Medicare Advantage scams. See Medicare Advantage Dangers for more information.
By Bruce Japsen for Forbes
Against the backdrop of the political debate over whether the U.S. government should administer Medicare for all Americans, health insurance companies are reporting record growth in their privately run Medicare Advantage businesses.
On Wednesday, Humana increased its full-year projections for Medicare Advantage growth to a “range of 480,000 to 500,00 members,” or 16% growth for 2019. That compares to a previous range of 415,000 to 440,000, the insurer reported.
Humana is the latest health insurer to tout solid profits thanks in part to seniors flocking to Medicare Advantage. Centene, WellCare Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group and Anthem have already reported record Medicare Advantage enrollment as well and Cigna will release its updated second-quarter figures on Thursday.
Medicare Advantage plans contract with the federal government to provide extra benefits and services to seniors, such as disease management and nurse help hotlines, with some even providing vision and dental care and wellness programs. And the federal government has changed rules to allow private health insurers to offer more supplemental benefits in Medicare Advantage plans they sell.
At a debate Tuesday night among half of the Democrats running for President, a divide emerged among candidates who want to preserve the private healthcare system — including Medicare Advantage — and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who want to see the health insurance industry uprooted. The remaining candidates for the Democratic party’s 2020 nomination will debate Wednesday night including former Vice President Joe Biden and California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who has a new healthcare plan out that would preserve the ability of seniors to keep their Medicare Advantage plans.
Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said seniors are attracted to the insurer’s “relentless focus on creating a simple and personalized healthcare experience.”
“As the number of seniors choosing Medicare Advantage plans continues to rise, we will continue to work collaboratively with partners across the industry to advance a consumer-centric system that focuses on improving both health outcomes and the affordability of care,” Broussard said on Humana’s second-quarter earnings call with analysts Wednesday morning.
The increase in Medicare Advantage members helped Humana’s earnings jump more than $1 billion, or $6.05 per share. Revenues rose 14% to $16.25 billion in the quarter.
As of June 30, Humana’s individual Medicare Advantage enrollment was 3.48 million, which was up 15% from the year-ago period.
Humana also raised its earnings forecast for the rest of this year due largely to the growth in its Medicare Advantage business. Humana raised its 2019 earnings-per-share guidance to $17.97, which the company said represented 21% growth for the year.