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CMS seeks bids for Trump’s first Medicare plan menu

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Managers of the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan programs seem to be trying to make sure the programs will look about the same next year.

The managers’ new 2018 Advance Notice packet for the programs looks about the same as the Medicare program advance notice packets posted in the past.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is predicting that the program changes it has proposed will increase issuers’ 2018 revenue by an average of 0.25 percent. That’s down from an increase estimate of 1.35 percent in the advance notice for 2017 coverage.

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In the past, issuers have often persuaded CMS to adjust Medicare program terms between the time officials released the advance notice and the time bidding began.

The Medicare Part C Medicare Advantage programs gives insurers a chance to sell health plans that serve as an alternative to traditional Medicare coverage.

The Part D prescription drug plan programs lets insurers sell subsidized drug coverage to Medicare program enrollees.

Nineteen million U.S. residents have Medicare Advantage coverage, and 41 million have Part D coverage.

President Donald Trump entered the White House Jan. 20. The new advance notice packet will create the plan menus for the first Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan annual enrollment periods to start during his administration.

Trump has said that he will name Seema Verma, an Indiana Medicaid and Affordable Care Act program designer, to run CMS.

Related: Trump picks ACA foe as HHS chief, adds Pence associate

A year ago, the press release announcing the 2017 advance notice included a statement from Andy Slavitt, President Barack Obama’s acting CMS administrator.

This year, the press release announcing the 2018 advance notice includes a brief statement from Patrick Conway, the current acting CMS administrator.

“Medicare Advantage is an essential, growing part of the Medicare program,” Conway says in the statement.

The proposals in the advance notice “will continue to keep Medicare Advantage strong and stable and provide high quality, affordable care to seniors and people living with disabilities,” Conway says.

In the past, CMS has debated how it should handle bidding requirements for carriers that offer Medicare Advantage plans for employers and unions.

For 2017, CMS waived use of the standard bid pricing tool for group Medicare Advantage plans.

CMS is proposing to waive use of the tool again in 2017, officials say.

“CMS believes that waiving the requirement to submit 2018 Part C bid pricing information will facilitate the offering of Part C plans for employers and unions,” officials say.

Otherwise, officials say, group plan providers will have to provide the same kinds of complicated bids that other Medicare Advantage plan providers have to create.

John Gorman, executive chairman of Gorman Health Group, a Washington-based health coverage consulting firm, said in a comment sent to clients that the draft call letter in the new packet “came in better than expected.”

The draft call letter “provides further evidence that, while Trump throws grades at Medicaid and Obamacare, [Medicare Advantage] remains the only stable market in all of health insurance,” Gorman said in the comment.


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