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Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said he views Medicare-for-All as a potentially enormous opportunity for the health insurance industry and patients.

But he warned that how such a system would work — and who would pay for it — are big questions that have yet to be answered.

“For me, I think it’s a great opportunity for the industry to be able to expand the population that it’s coordinating care with,” Broussard said Tuesday at the Barclays Global Healthcare Conference in Miami Beach, Fla.

Medicare is the federal government’s health insurance program for the elderly. In traditional Medicare, the government pays for health care benefits when patients incur them, but an increasing share of beneficiaries is choosing Medicare Advantage plans, under which the services are offered by private insurers such as Humana, who are approved and paid by the federal government.

Last year, about a third of the nation’s 60 million Medicare beneficiaries were in MA plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Some Democrats running in next year’s presidential election have signaled support for expanding the program for every American, though how exactly the program would work and how it would be funded has yet to be determined. More than 150 million Americans currently get their health insurance through employer plans.

Bruce Broussard

Broussard said he expects a Medicare-for-All program to work similar to the way the U.S. handles its space program, in which the federal government provides support but outsources many functions, including the manufacturing of spacecraft, to companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Broussard has said that prevention and treating conditions early will remain key components of any approach to keep costs under control.

The company last year bought a minority stake in Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare to increase its capabilities to manage patients’ chronic diseases at home, with the expectation that the approach would improve the patients’ lives — and the insurer’s bottom line.

The federal government expects national health care expenditures to rise to $5.5 billion in 2025, more than double the amount from 2010. Until then, the number of people with at least one chronic disease is expected to rise 16 percent, to 164 million. Three-quarters of people 64 and older already have at least one chronic disease.

Broussard on Tuesday also said that the effectiveness of a Medicare-for-All program in large part would depend on its structure and would have to focus on consumer choice, population health and managed care, which would align with both Humana’s capabilities and the direction of the industry.

“The coordination of care is a really important part of this, especially in the areas where there (is) high utilization of the health care system,” he said, “and that coordination of care offers the ability not only to save but really to improve the health of the member you’re serving.”

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.