Looking back, 2020 was a year that no one will ever forget. For Cigna, it further accelerated a number of efforts to create innovative solutions to improve the health and well-being of those we serve, a mission that drives the work we do each and every day. The company took bold action to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including: waiving the costs of COVID-19 testing and treatment; protecting our customers against surprise billing; expanding access to telehealth and virtual behavioral care; along with other steps to support our customers during an unpreceded and challenging time. Looking at 2021, there is no better place to discuss the year ahead for Cigna and the industry than the annual J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference, held virtually on January 11-14.
Cigna leaders, including President and CEO David Cordani, Evernorth CEO Tim Wentworth, Medicare Advantage President Aparna Abburi and Vice President of Behavioral Health Eva Borden, spoke with investors, analysts and other business leaders as part of the week's activities. Take a moment to catch up on key takeaways from their conversations:
2021 will continue to be highly dynamic
In a conversation with Gary Taylor from J.P. Morgan Chase, Cigna President and CEO David Cordani discussed evolving trends that are shaping today’s health care landscape.
“2020 was a unique and challenging year from a COVID standpoint, and we structured ourselves to be guided by our mission to improve health, well-being and peace of mind for those we serve,” Cordani said. ”Across the globe, affordability remains the number one tension point for customers, clients and government partners.”
He continued, “Two trends exist in just about every conversation right now – mental and medical coordination – providing more than just mental health coverage, redefining loneliness, depression, stress and having additional programs, products and services that are highly coordinated and integrated, and taking the most holistic perspective of specialty pharmaceuticals, which represent the fastest growing part of the overall cost equation.”
Evernorth, Cigna’s health services business, seeks to be the undisputed partner of choice
Partnership and innovation enables us to identify pain points and gaps in care, and then bring together the best capabilities – whether ours or those of a partner – to deliver new and meaningful offerings and solutions. During an interview with FierceHealthcare, Evernorth CEO Tim Wentworth highlighted how partnerships drive the innovation at the heart of Evernorth’s model.
“From our perspective, we are focused on long-term problems that reward those who innovate. We see growth coming from new relationships, new services and, crucially, expanded relationships. We grow as our partners grow, that is our fundamental differentiator. You’ve seen examples of this in our significant relationships this year, Prime Therapeutics and Amazon.”
“Our goal with Evernorth was to create a unique, externally focused, highly-coordinated partner of choice,” continued Wentworth. “It’s a function of culture -- we have a long-standing culture of being highly innovative and disruptive to ourselves, as well as the ecosystem.”
Expanding Medicare Advantage business to serve more people
Cigna’s Medicare Advantage (MA) business remains a top area of growth and 2021 marked the largest expansion of MA in company history, including plans in 369 counties spanning 23 states.
“We know that seniors want affordable, high-quality care in a way that meets their lifestyles, and we are committed to expanding the areas we serve to reach more customers and growing our network of providers to offer more flexibility and choice,” said Aparna Abburi, president of Cigna Medicare and CareAllies. “We have expanded our MA territory at a record pace in each of the last two years and expect another strong year of growth this year.”
Cigna currently reaches 28 percent of Medicare eligibles with plans of reaching 50 percent by 2024.
“When reviewing areas to expand, we look for places where there is a need and where we can offer a significant value proposition to customers, and where Cigna can be a top-tier player within 24-36 months,” said Abburi. “Additionally, we often leverage areas where we have a strong commercial presence because stakeholders there know and trust our brand and areas where we have strong provider relationships since 85 percent of our customers are cared for by doctors who are in a value-based arrangement.”
The future of behavioral care
Eva Borden, vice president of behavioral health for Evernorth, participated in a robust discussion on the future of behavioral care on a JPM panel hosted by Deloitte with leading experts from McClean Hospital and Verily. The panel covered a wide range of topics, including the acceleration of virtual care in mental health due to COVID-19, the need for greater connectivity between primary and behavioral care, and the opportunity for tech to help improve quality measurement.
"COVID-19 transformed behavioral virtual care into a commonly accepted practice to deliver care and as a result we’re going to see even more people willing to seek care,” said Borden. “As we look ahead, finding ways to measure efficacy at the intersection of medical and behavioral that will improve care is vitally important.”
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