The 2011 Medicare Advantage and Part D selling season was shorter than ever this year, but it certainly wasn’t any less eventful. We witnessed carriers leaving the market (CIGNA), mergers (Bravo and HealthSpring), CMS sanctions (Aetna, Arcadian, and Universal American), and some very aggressive moves by the largest carriers (Humana and United Healthcare).

So, with all of the maneuvering and the changes, what were the results? Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a look back and see what carriers grew enrollment and what carriers saw membership decline.

Part D Membership

Let’s start with Part D plans. According to data released recently by CMS, Part D enrollments grew for the top 20 carriers by 668,000 in 2011, for a total PDP membership of 17.5 million. Roughly 93 percent of the membership in PDP falls under individual plans, and group plans now represent only 7 percent of the top players’ totals. Here is how the top seven PDP carriers performed for the latest selling period:

Parent Organization

Membership as of Jan. 2011

Growth/Decline

UnitedHealth Group Inc

4,714,118

186,183

Humana Inc

2,327,381

649,617

Universal American

1,861,152

-44,067

CVS Caremark Corporation

1,539,823

346,448

Coventry Health Care Inc

1,153,118

-475,737

Wellcare Health Plans Inc

928,602

164,477

HealthSpring Inc.

819,591

104,374

The seven carriers above represent 75 percent of the market. CVS/Caremark’s pending purchase of Universal American’s PDP business will leapfrog them to more than 3 million members, making CVS/Caremark No. 2 in terms of enrollment. The big winner is no surprise. Humana’s program with Wal-Mart and their low premiums garnered significant gains in terms of enrollments by both agent-sold and auto-assigned dual-eligible business.

The fascinating aspect of the PDP business is how carriers position themselves for the auto-assigned business. Carriers position themselves to be below the benchmark premium in selected states. A miscalculation by an actuary can result in gains or losses of tens of thousands of dual-eligible clients.

Medicare Advantage Membership

For Medicare Advantage business, the industry grew despite a shortened selling season. Membership in MA-PD plans for the top 20 carriers now stands at 8.4 million, up from 8.1 million a year ago. Additional regulation, increased premiums, and co-pays slowed the growth of MA plans, but did not decrease the size of the market. Here’s how the top carriers performed:

Parent Organization

Membership as of Jan. 2011

Growth/Decline

UnitedHealth Group, Inc.

2,183,477

52,936

Humana

1,861,497

136,028

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

1,006,869

16,623

WellPoint Inc

542,105

65,943

Aetna

389,061

-35,702

HealthSpring Inc

326,611

24,730

Highmark Inc

322,385

13,256

With the exception of Aetna, which was under CMS sanctions, the top carriers saw membership growth for Medicare Advantage plans. The big losers in terms of membership were Universal American (down 109,000) and, of course, CIGNA, which exited the PFFS market without a network-based plan.

Perhaps the real winner last year was Medicare Supplement. With the introduction of modernized Med Supp plans, including the popular Plan N, and the service area reductions by MA carriers, Medicare Supplement carriers saw a significant spike in enrollments during the enrollment period.

Looking Ahead …

Looking forward, 2012 promises more change for agents in the Medicare Market. The CMS Quality Stars ratings will benefit some carriers at the expense of others. The highest-rated carriers will be able to sell year-round, while those with Quality Stars below 4.5 will be limited to the election periods as we know them today. Furthermore, CMS just announced a 1.6 percent increase in funding for Medicare Advantage plans for 2012, with most of the additional reimbursement going to carriers achieving the highest Quality Stars ratings. Expect to see carriers promoting their Quality Stars ratings, which are due to come out in the early fall.

The Annual Election Period begins October 15th and ends December 7th, so agents will have time to shop for the holidays this year. Expect another Special Election Period for plan closures and service area reductions, which could jump start sales in mid-September. Whatever happens, 2012 is sure to be another adventure.

Dwane McFerrin is vice president of Medicare solutions for Senior Market Sales Inc. He can be reached at dwane@seniormarketsales.com.

For more exclusive Medicare coverage, visit ASJ’s Medicare Resource Center.

Past Medicare stories from ASJ:

How to Grow Your Medicare Business

4 Medicare Sales Opportunities to Explore During Lock-In Period

The End of Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Advantage Market Sees Encouraging Leap in Enrollment

FAQ: Nonrenewal Letters During the Medicare SNP Period