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The 6 Most Important Health Plan Trends of 2022—Plus a Big Reform Question Mark

"This is a whole new ballgame," notes one academic consultant—an observation about marketplace exchanges that also applies to every aspect of healthcare next year.

Pandemic year three is at hand and will continue to affect everything from cost-sharing and telehealth to data disruption and tech innovation. Expect multiple disruptions aimed at improving patient experience and outcomes, including, social determinants of health (SDOH); exchange and Medicare Advantage (MA) plan growth; and advanced digitization. Payers will continue to grapple with the forces of consolidation and value-based care (VBC) as COVID concern runs tandem with delivery system progress. Finally, the full story of patient health

The pandemic laid bare healthcare’s disparities. Healthcare, especially payers, have the data to do something about it. To a degree that they always have , but alternative data integrated from multiple sources and activated by artificial intelligence will be even bigger game changers. Big payers will continue to cozy-up the exchanges

Federal subsidies, a special enrollment period, and change of administration have breathed new life into the ACA marketplace. As of August 2021, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reported that a record 12.2 million people were enrolled in exchange plans. And while KFF was cautious as to current Open Enrollment projections, others are more optimistic. "This is a whole new ballgame," says consultant and adjunct professor Katie Keith of Georgetown University Law School.

In addition to 32 new insurers, larger payers have reestablished themselves. Bill Melville , principal analyst of Market Access Insights with Clarivate notes: “Exchanges have drawn back major insurers who left them, notably Aetna in eight new markets and UnitedHealth Group in seven. The risk is much lower for participation now, as payers have learned how to price for exchanges." Expect more Medicare Advantage disruptions

MA plans will continue to see enrollment growth through expansion and collaboration. Cigna has expanded its small-group partnership with insurance startup Oscar while more established players like Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) either expanded or entered new markets ( CareFirst’s group entry ).

Two additional MA disruptions loom with Humana at the crux of both: Star Rating changes with quadruple-weighted customer experience measures as of plan year 2023 and a larger shift to VBC rooted in home health. "Humana has invested heavily in home-based health services for its Medicare Advantage members," says Paula Wade , also a Market Access Insights principal analyst with Clarivate. Her colleague Melville adds: “The company plans to have 50% of its MA lives in value-based home-health models within five years," noting that "Humana’s strength in MA could lead the entire segment into a value-based shift.” VBC will expand within its limits

That an MA payer’s shift into VBC could lead others to follow says a lot about how original Medicare’s VBC demonstrations are faring. Quality has improved and costs decreased—or not—depending on the source. All eyes will be CMS’ strategy refresh and Global and Professional Direct Contracting (GPDC) Model, which welcomes new entrants January 1, 2022, and "opens capitation for both new and experienced groups" per […]

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