As CVS Deal Looms, Aetna Presses Medicare Advantage – Forbes

Though Aetna is shedding its Obamacare, life and disability businesses, its future focus on its own or under the CVS Health umbrella will be administering health benefits to seniors eligible for Medicare.

Aetna Tuesday told analysts that Medicare products are the “main growth driver” for the company. That likely won’t change even if Aetna’s rumored sale to pharmacy giant CVS Health comes to pass. Aetna now has more than 2.2 million Medicare members across group, individual Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement products and is projecting growth as seniors pick among scores of plans for 2018. Medicare’s annual open enrollment runs through Dec. 7.

Pedestrians walk past Aetna headquarters in Hartford, Conn., Nov. 22, 2016. (Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

“As we look to the annual election period which is currently underway, we believe we are well positioned to grow our Medicare Advantage membership in 2018,” Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told analysts on the company’s third quarter earnings call.

Some of Aetna’s products would seem to pair well with CVS Health, which operates Medicare part D drug plans. The Wall Street Journal last week said CVS Health has bid more than $200 a share for Aetna, valuing the health insurer at more than $66 billion. CVS operates a large drugstore chain, retail health clinics inside its stores and one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit management companies that already has a contract with Aetna.

Next year, Aetna expects to be able to reach three in five seniors eligible for Medicare through an aggressive expansion. “Our planned expansion into 128 new counties for 2018 is expected to increase our geographic footprint to cover approximately 62% of the individual Medicare-eligible population, up from 56% in 2017,” Bertolini said.

Aetna will have competition as UnitedHealth Group, Cigna, Humana. Anthem and smaller plans like Centene and Wellcare are also pushing aggressively into Medicare Advantage. “More than 85 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will have access to ten or more Medicare Advantage plans in 2018,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said a month ago.

Currently, just under 35% of Medicare beneficiaries, or about 19 million Americans, are enrolled in MA plans, which contract with the federal government to provide health benefits to seniors.

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