Cigna has said Medicare sanctions could have a material effect on its 2017 earnings. (Image: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)

Cigna Corp. warned today that it will probably have to sit out the coming Medicare plan sales season.

Cigna said, in a notice filed with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, that it’s still working with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to address audit findings that led to a Medicare plan sales ban.

“Cigna expects that these matters will not be resolved in time to participate in the 2017 Medicare Advantage and Part D annual enrollment period,” Cigna said in the notice. 

The Bloomfield, Connecticut-based insurer now provides Medicare Part D drug coverage for about 1 million of the 18 million people who have Part D coverage, and about 550,000 of the 14 million people who have Medicare Advantage plan coverage.

In January, CMS accused Cigna of running its Medicare plans in a way that threatened enrollees’ access to care. CMS prohibited Cigna from selling new Medicare plans, but Cigna could continue to cover the people in the Medicare plans it had already sold.

Related: Cigna banned from Medicare sales for ‘systemic failures’

Since January, Cigna has been unable to sell coverage to people who turned 65 and became eligible for seven-month initial enrollment periods. But the company was hoping to get out from under the sales ban in time for the 2017 annual open enrollment period, which gives enrollees a chance to change plans. 

The 2017 Medicare plan annual enrollment period is set to run from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

Anthem, a bigger, Indianapolis-based insurer, has been trying to acquire Cigna. Representatives from Anthem were not immediately available to comment on whether the new announcement affects Anthem’s interest in completing the Cigna deal.

Related: Anthem fights for Cigna deal in court of public opinion

The lingering Medicare plan sales problems could also have an unpredictable effect on Cigna’s willingness and ability to sell ordinary individual major medical coverage, either through the Affordable Care Act public exchange system or in the off-exchange market.

In the spring, Cigna was talking about plans to selling coverage through more states’ ACA exchange programs in 2017. Last month, however, Cigna said it would probably sell through fewer ACA exchanges in 2017 than it had expected in the spring.

Related:

Medicare plans may face wave of network adequacy fines

CMS Chief Vows To Toughen Medicare Plan Sales Standards

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