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CMS releases advance notice of methodological changes for MA capitation rates and Medicare Part C and Part D payment policies

This week, our In Focus section reviews the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Calendar Year (CY) 2025 Advance Notice for the Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Part D Prescription Drug Programs published on January 31, 2024. Alongside the advance notice, CMS published draft CY 2025 Part D Redesign Program Instructions. This guidance includes CY 2025 payment updates as well as additional proposed technical and methodological changes to Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D. CMS previously released a proposed rule in November 2023 that included proposed policy changes to MA and Part D for CY 2025.

The proposed payment policies signal CMS is working to ensure the stability of MA and Part D programs, while also addressing concerns about the appropriateness of payments to plans. Furthermore, CMS remains highly focused on the impact methodological changes could have on payment to plans that enroll beneficiaries who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid services. Proposals to align quality measures across programs and strengthen the measures used to assess the quality of beneficiary experiences and services provide directional information on CMS’s plans for the forthcoming annual payment rules for 2025.

Following are highlights from the 2025 Advance Notice and Part D Redesign Program Instructions. The deadline for submitting comments is Friday, March 1, 2024. CMS will announce the MA capitation rates and final payment policies for 2025 no later than April 1, 2024.

Payment Impact on MA: CMS is projecting that federal payments to MA plans will increase on average 3.7 percent from 2024 to 2025. The increase reflects multiple factors, including growth rates in underlying costs, change in Star ratings, continued implementation of the new risk adjustment model and fee for service (FFS) normalization, and risk score trends. Actual impacts of the proposed payment policies will vary from plan to plan.

Risk Adjustment: CMS is proposing to continue its three-year phase in of the updated Part C risk adjustment model, first published in the CY 2024 Rate Announcement. In CY 2025, risk scores will be calculated by blending 67 percent of the risk score using the 2024 CMS hierarchical condition categories (HCC) risk adjustment model and 33 percent using the 2020 CMS-HCC risk adjustment model. In addition, the MA risk score trend is being calculated separately under each model, then blended by the respective percentage to determine a CY 2025 risk score trend of 3.86 percent.

CMS is proposing a new methodology for calculating the FFS normalization factor to accurately address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic without excluding any years of FFS risk scores.

CMS also proposes to apply the statutory minimum MA coding pattern difference adjustment factor of 5.90 percent for CY 2025.

Frailty Adjustment for FIDE SNPs and PACE Organizations. For CY 2025, CMS is proposing to blend the frailty score calculated for fully integrated dual eligible (FIDE) special needs plans (SNPs) consistent with the phase-in of the 2024 CMS-HCC model. The FIDE SNP frailty score is the sum of:

  • 33 percent of the score calculated with the 2020 CMS-HCC model frailty factors
  • 67 percent of the score calculated with the 2024 CMS-HCC model frailty factors

CMS also intends to use only the full Medicaid frailty factors to calculate frailty scores for FIDE SNP enrollees in order to align with the requirement that FIDE SNPs must have exclusively aligned enrollment, meaning that enrollment in FIDE SNPs will be limited to full-benefit dually eligible individuals, beginning in CY 2025. CMS will use the frailty factors associated with the 2017 CMS-HCC model to calculate frailty scores for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organizations in CY 2025.

Star Ratings: CMS reiterates its plan to further implement the “universal foundation” of quality measures. CMS first announced this subset of metrics in 2023, with the goal of aligning a core set of metrics across the agency’s programs while continuing to allow for program specific measures. CMS reminds plans that beginning with the 2024 measurement year (2026 Star Ratings), the weight of patients’ experience, complaints, and access measures will be reduced from a weight of four to a weight of two.

CMS proposes several updates and refinements to the Star Ratings program, including:

  • Retiring the Care for Older Adults – Pain Assessment (Part C) measure, starting as early as the 2025 measurement year
  • Making changes to the Plan Makes Timely Decisions About Appeals and Reviewing Appeals Decisions (Part C) measures for cases submitted electronically to the independent review entity
  • Adding Social Need Screening and Intervention (Part C) to the display page for the 2025 Star Ratings and giving notice that National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) is evaluating the potential addition of a utilities insecurity screening and intervention rate for this measure in the future
  • Adding Depression Screening and Follow-Up for Adolescents and Adults (Part C) and Adult Immunization Status (Part C) to the display page for the 2026 Star Ratings
  • Updating the Members Choosing to Leave the Plan (Part C and D) measure for the 2026 Star Ratings
  • Possibly adding the Initiation and Engagement of Substance Use Disorder Treatment (Part C) and Initial Opioid Prescribing for Long Duration (IOP-LD) (Part D) measures
  • Revisions to the Care Coordination (Part C) measure, and other changes through future rulemaking

Part D Impact

The advance notice reviews the significant changes to the Part D benefit occurring in 2025 as required in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA’s Part D changes effective in CY 2025 include:

  • Eliminating the coverage gap phase. A newly defined standard Part D benefit will consist of three phases: annual deductible, initial coverage, and catastrophic coverage. There is no initial coverage limit, and the initial coverage phase will extend to the maximum annual out-of-pocket threshold, after which the catastrophic phase begins.
  • Setting the out-of-pocket threshold at $2,000.
  • Sunsetting the Coverage Gap Discount Program and implementing of the Manufacturer Discount Program (Discount Program).
  • Making changes to the liability of enrollees, plans, manufacturers, and CMS.
  • Updating the definition of incurred costs to include, among other categories of costs, supplemental coverage and other health insurance, which was previously excluded. Manufacturer discounts provided under the Discount Program also will be excluded.
  • Premium stabilization will continue to be in effect.

CMS is recalibrating the RxHCC risk adjustment model to account for IRA changes and is proposing to calculate separate normalization factors for risk scores used to pay MA-PD plans versus PDPs.

Key Considerations

The impact of the MA risk score trend on payment will vary across individual MA plans. Plans will want to analyze these effects to inform their comments to CMS.

In the advance notice, CMS emphasized the strong growth in the dual SNP market for 2024. This market continues to present growth opportunities. CMS has sought to ensure that changes to payment accuracy better reflect more recent cost and utilization patterns and the risk profile of the sickest and most complex enrollees. Plans will want to consider payment incentives in the context of major policy, reimbursement, and operational changes required to improve integrated care for dually eligible individuals. MA organizations considering becoming FIDE SNPs and wishing to obtain frailty payments in 2025 will need to understand the specific requirements to be eligible for such payments.

The HMA Medicare team will continue to analyze these proposed changes. We have the depth and breadth of expertise to assist with tailored analysis, to model policy impacts across the multiple rules, and to support the drafting of comment letters on this notice.

If you have questions about the contents of CMS’s MA Advance Notice and payment policies and how these would affect MA plans, including SNPs, providers, and Medicare beneficiaries, contact Julie Faulhaber ([email protected]), Amy Bassano ([email protected]), or Andrea Maresca ([email protected]).

Meet the HMA blog contributors

Julie Faulhaber

Julie Faulhaber, MBA

Managing Director, Medicare and Dual Eligibles
Chicago, IL
Amy Bassano

Amy Bassano

Managing Director, Medicare
Washington, DC
Andrea Maresca

Andrea Maresca, MPH

Managing Director, Information Services
Washington, DC