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More than a quarter of major health systems plan Medicare Advantage launch, though many lack confidence

Executives say the top reason for launching a Medicare Advantage plan is the opportunity to capture more value.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

A new survey from Lumeris found that 27 percent of major U.S. health system executives intend to launch a Medicare Advantage plan in the next four years. Despite that, confidence among these same execs is lacking, with only 29 percent reporting they felt confident in their organization's ability to make the launch successfully. 

"These survey findings are consistent with our conversations with healthcare executives across the country who are feeling a sense of urgency around Medicare Advantage strategies, but also realize that this type of work is vastly different than traditional health system operations," said Jeff Carroll, executive director of health plans at Lumeris, by statement.

In April, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it was releasing Medicare Advantage encounter data for the first time by request from the CMS Research Data Assistance Center. The MA encounter data, starting from 2015, provides detailed information about services to beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage managed plan. It will give researchers insight into the care delivered under MA plans and will help them improve the Medicare program, CMS said. Annual updates are planned.

According to the 90 executives Lumeris surveyed from major health systems, the top reason for launching a Medicare Advantage plan is the opportunity to capture more value by controlling a greater portion of the premium dollar as compared to fee-for-service Medicare. 

Other key drivers cited include market and regulatory trends supporting Medicare Advantage. In particular, shrinking Medicare margins could threaten the viability of hospitals and health systems as the senior population continues to grow and becomes a larger proportion of providers' patient panels.

The respondents also recognized that launching a Medicare Advantage plan will be challenging due to the complexities of operating an insurance plan, which are far different than the capabilities required to successfully operate a health system.

They also shared concerns about the significant financial investment required and an overall lack of expertise in the health plan space. The majority of respondents, 59 percent, indicated they were likely to use outside resources to launch their plans -- and that those resources are very likely to include a vendor partner that can mitigate operational risk.

"Launching and managing a Medicare Advantage plan requires skills beyond the core competencies of most health systems, which is one reason many provider-sponsored plans fail in the first few years," Carroll said. "Through those failures, it has become clear that providers who select the right partners increase the likelihood for greater success in a shorter period of time."

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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