The Medicare President shares how Aetna expands and simplifies in part one of this HealthLeaders exclusive.
Terri Swanson, Medicare President for Aetna, has a lot on her plate. She’s also incredibly pragmatic about what it means to oversee historic Medicare Advantage (MA) growth while keeping members happy.
“In 2024, we took steps to simplify our product portfolio — even though we actually have more products,” says Swanson. “We've also put a lot of energy into making the member experience a good one.”
Aetna, a CVS Health company, has expanded its 2024 MA portfolio to include:
- 747 plans in 46 states and Washington, D.C., including 2,269 counties
- More plans for beneficiaries who are dual-eligible or have institutional special needs (D-SNP and I-SNP), who qualify for a low-income subsidy, or who need an MA-only plan.
- New plans and expanded benefits, including supplementals and those that address social drivers of health (SDOH).
The simplification targets benefits: strengthening Aetna’s MA core benefits; improving dental, vision, and hearing; and enhancing supplementals including ease of use.
Aetna now serves nearly 11 million Medicare members, with 3.4 million currently enrolled in an MA plan. The company reports that 87% of MA members are in a four-star-rated plan or higher for 2024. This includes a substantial boost to the payer’s member experience rating.
“We were really delighted to see that,” says Swanson.
Read on for more examples of how Aetna is building MA traction.
HealthLeaders: If you could sum up Aetna’s Medicare strategy in a single statement, what would it be and how is it differentiated from your competitors?
Terri Swanson, President of Aetna Medicare: I think at the core, our strategy is fairly simple. We want to provide older adults with access to affordable care that's convenient and that really helps them achieve their best health. We try to build products that are designed for different types of members so that, ideally, we’ve got something in our portfolio for everyone.
HealthLeaders: What does it take to stand out in a growing and very dynamic MA space?
Swanson: The good news for Medicare beneficiaries is that there are a lot of options out there. The bad news is, there are a lot of options out there. We try to focus on what I would call core benefits — to ensure people have what they need for their day-to-day healthcare needs. Then, we look at the supplemental benefits: dental, vision, and hearing — the things that Original Medicare doesn't cover. Last but not least are the broader supplemental benefits: healthy food, transportation, over-the-counter benefits, help with utilities or internet service.
HealthLeaders: I appreciate what you said about not losing the core benefits . . .
Swanson: I think some of the plans may sacrifice that. We think it's fundamentally important to ensure the core benefits are strong so people have good access to healthcare services.
HealthLeaders: What are some of the biggest changes in Aetna’s Medicare Advantage portfolio for 2024?
Swanson: It’s our largest launch and includes service area expansion in both our general population and for dual-eligible, low-income members [D-SNP plans]. We’ve made sure that dental, vision, and hearing are included in every product, and that every county has a plan with a $0 monthly premium, $0 PCP co-pay, and $0 co-pays for Tier 1 drugs. We think that simplicity is helpful — to members and to the brokers and advisors who help people select their plans.
We've also expanded some of our supplemental benefits, particularly for healthy foods. In the past, food delivered after an inpatient stay was frozen and we’ve replaced that with fresh. It may sound like a small thing, but it's actually big. The way that members use our Extra Benefits Card is also simplified. More benefits are added together, which puts larger allowances in their pocket. We also provide additional money for personal care items, transportation, and assistance with utility and housing payments.
We've also launched some products for people who have low incomes but don’t quite qualify for D-SNP plans. We're seeing a good response so far in the first couple of weeks [of the Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP].
There’s a whole variety of things where we’ve tried to expand flexibility and make things more customized to the individual.
In part two of HealthLeaders’ interview, Swanson details how Aetna is working to improve experience and outcomes for all members.
Laura Beerman is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.
For 2024, Aetna will offer the largest number of Medicare Advantage plans in company history.
The payer has a diverse portfolio strategy to help members navigate choice.
That strategy includes maintaining a strong core while expanding benefits.