by Tim Rowan, Editor Emeritus

MA Plans Continue to Exaggerate Patient Conditions for Profit

Medicare Advantage for Profit

As we reported in October (More MA Plans Caught Inflating Patient Assessments, 10/11/23), insurance companies operating Medicare Advantage plans routinely pad the patient assessments that set their monthly revenue from the Medicare Trust Fund. Worse, CMS bowed to industry pressure earlier this year and agreed not to extrapolate the amount of the fraudulent payments, as it does with Home Health and Hospice overpayments (Government Lets Health Plans That Ripped Off Medicare Keep the Money, 2/22/23).

Now, we hear that the HHS OIG has totaled its 2023 audits and announced it found over $213 million in padded Medicare Advantage overpayments so far this year. In its latest semiannual report, covering fraudulent patient assessments between April and September, the OIG said it recovered $82.7 million. Total recoveries would have been higher except for that CMS ruling that prevents the agency from extrapolating payments before contract year 2018.

Will SEC Allow Cigna/Humana Marriage?

Early last month, Bloomberg broke the news that Cigna was in talks to sell its Medicare Advantage business to Health Care Service Corporation, the parent company of BCBS in Illinois, Texas, New Mexico, Montana and Oklahoma. Should that sale be approved, it would remove an obstacle to Cigna’s rumored desire to merge with Humana.

Though approval is uncertain — the SEC has squashed more than one similar attempt under both the current and former Presidents — it would create what Axios called “another Titan” that would rival UnitedHealth Group and CVS Health in size. CVS acquired Aetna in 2018. It would also combine two Pharmacy Benefit Managers, giving the new entity control of a third of the market, which would be equal to the market share owned today by CVS.

In 2017, a proposed merger between Cigna and Elevance Health, formerly Anthem, was struck down in court. A proposed merger between Humana and Aetna was also canceled in a federal court the same year. Large, powerful insurers, and the PBMs they own, have come under increased scrutiny from federal regulators.

The Biden administration has already launched a warning shot, indicating it will be scrutinizing private equity acquisitions in health care. In September, the Federal Trade Commission sued private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe after it bought up nearly all of the anesthesiology practices in Texas and then, with competition removed, began to jack up prices. FTC chair Lina Khan made it clear the suit was intended to send a message to all consolidation attempts that might harm patients.

United to Change Prior Authorization Policy

According to a November 27 policy update from UnitedHealthcare (UHC), the payer is updating its Home Health prior authorization and concurrent review process for services that are delegated to Home & Community Care, the payer’s home care division.

The updated policy, which are set to take effect January 1, will affect United’s Medicare Advantage and Dual Special Needs plans in 37 states, a UnitedHealthcare news release stated.

In Summary

  1. Start of care visits still do not require prior authorization.
  2. Providers must notify Home & Community Care of the initiation of home care services. UHC encourages providing notice within five days after the start of a care visit to help avoid potential payment delays.
  3. Before the 30th day, providers must request prior authorization for days 30 to 60, by discipline, and provide documentation to Home & Community Care.
  4. For each subsequent 60-day period, providers must request prior authorization, by discipline, and provide documentation to Home & Community Care during the 56- to 60-day recertification window.

UHC says it will respond to questions about the prior authorization approval process at

In related news, in its annual investor conference call, the company projected “revenues of $400 billion to $403 billion, net earnings of $26.20 to $26.70 per share and adjusted net earnings of $27.50 to $28.00 per share” for 2024. Cash flows from operations are expected to range from $30 billion to $31 billion.

Tim Rowan, Editor EmeritusTim Rowan is a 30-year home care technology consultant who co-founded and served as Editor and principal writer of this publication for 25 years. He continues to occasionally contribute news and analysis articles under The Rowan Report’s new ownership. He also continues to work part-time as a Home Care recruiting and retention consultant. More information:

©2023 by The Rowan Report, Peoria, AZ. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Healthcare at Home: The Rowan Report. One copy may be printed for personal use: further reproduction by permission only.