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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) added digital chronic disease management company Livongo to its list of enrolled providers for Medicare Advantage (MA) members, per MedTech Dive.
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For context, MA is offered by private insurers to consumers 65 and up as an alternative to the government’s Medicare program. Livongo’s move into the private Medicare sector will help the startup permeate a burgeoning market: MA members will account for 42% of total Medicare membership by 2028 — up from 34% in 2018.
Here’s what it means: This is just the latest in a spattering of aggressive moves by Livongo in 2019.
- Livongo expanded into mental health when it scooped up digital behavioral health company myStrength. Livongo acquired the startup — a partner of 130 large US health plans — in January. And it makes sense for Livongo to tap into the mental healthcare market considering 25% of US adults suffer from mental illnesses.
- The startup was one of the first companies to develop a HIPAA-compliant skill for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Livongo was selected as one of a handful of health firms to launch skills for Alexa. The Livongo skill will allow members to ask the voice assistant for their last blood glucose reading and measurement trends.
- And there have been rumblings that Livongo will go public this year. The company will likely announce its IPO as soon as Q3 2019. Livongo may see an IPO as a way to diversify its offerings and beat out competitors in the disease management space.
The bigger picture: We expect MA plans will become a hotbed for digital disease management solutions.
- Insurers can shave down costs by investing in chronic disease management for older members. The number of people in the US over age 65 is projected to swell to nearly 84 million by 2050 — almost double the number in 2012 — and 75% of adults in this age bracket have multiple chronic conditions, per the CDC. This puts a heavy burden on insurers: Members with three to four chronic diseases cost private insurers five times as much annually as those with none. In order to avoid shelling out hefty hospital fees, insurers with MA plans will likely tap digital services that help members manage their conditions.
- And the CMS recently lifted restrictions of digital health adoption for MA plans.The agency broadened its telehealth reimbursement policy last month so that insurers can include telehealth as a generic government-funded benefit. It’s likely that insurers will take advantage of the loosened limitations and turn to startups touting digital management solutions to curtail costs.
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