While the COVID-19 pandemic created a particularly unusual set of factors in Medicare Advantage organizations’ annual bid planning for 2021, actuaries who recently helped sponsors submit their 2022 bids suggest that costs and revenue were somewhat easier to project given that medical utilization has begun to normalize. Nevertheless, some COVID-related unknowns remain, such as whether insurers will have to pay for vaccines and boosters and whether new utilization patterns that emerged during the pandemic — such as increased use of telehealth or mail-order prescription fulfillment — will remain in play.

“In general, what organizations worked through was fairly standard in that we were either leveraging pre-pandemic data from 2019, or normalizing 2020 data to remove the influence of COVID, and we’re projecting those historical normalized costs forward to a period — 2022 — that is hopefully not drastically affected by COVID. And so this bid season could arguably be characterized as a big step in our transition back to normal,” observes Tim Murray, a senior consulting actuary with Wakely Consulting Group, Inc. “But COVID still drives significant uncertainty over what the new normal looks like in terms of health care consumption.”

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