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Blog

Oklahoma rereleases Medicaid Managed Care RFPs

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This week, our In Focus reviews the Oklahoma Medicaid managed care SoonerSelect Program request for proposals (RFP) and the SoonerSelect Children’s Specialty Program RFP released by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) on November 10, 2022.

Background

Oklahoma currently does not have a fully capitated, risk-based Medicaid managed care program. The majority of the state’s 1.3 million Medicaid members are in SoonerCare Choice, a Primary Care Case Management (PCCM) program in which each member has a medical home. Other programs include SoonerCare Traditional (Medicaid fee-for-service), SoonerPlan (a limited benefit family planning program), and Insure Oklahoma (a premium assistance program for low-income people whose employers offer health insurance).

Prior efforts to transition to Medicaid managed care have encountered roadblocks, starting in 2017 with a failed attempt to move aged, blind, and disabled members to managed care.

More recently, in June 2021, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a planned transition of the state’s traditional Medicaid program to managed care, ruling that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority does not have the authority to implement the program without legislative approval.

Contracts had been awarded to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Humana, Centene/Oklahoma Complete Health, and UnitedHealthcare. Centene/Oklahoma Complete Health also won an award for the SoonerSelect Children’s Specialty Program.

In May 2022, Governor Kevin Stitt signed a new Oklahoma law to implement Medicaid managed care by October 1, 2023.

SoonerSelect RFP

Oklahoma will award contracts to at least three entities to provide medical, behavioral, and pharmacy coverage to nearly one million eligible children, pregnant women, newborns, parents and caretake relatives, and the expansion population. However, enrollment in these populations is expected to drop following the end of the public health emergency (PHE).

At least one of the contracts may be awarded to a provider-led entity (PLE). PLEs would need to provide proof that a majority of their ownership is held by Oklahoma Medicaid providers or the majority of the governing body is composed of individuals who have experience serving Medicaid members and are licensed providers. PLEs would also be able to bid on urban regions if the PLE agrees to develop statewide readiness within a timeframe set by the OHCA. If no PLEs meet OHCA standards, Oklahoma can choose not to award a PLE.

Goals of the program will include:

  • Improve health outcomes for Medicaid members and the state as a whole
  • Ensure budget predictability through shared risk and accountability
  • Ensure access to care, quality measures, and member satisfaction
  • Ensure efficient and cost-effective administrative systems and structures
  • Ensure a sustainable delivery system that is a provider-led effort and that is operated and managed by providers to the maximum extent possible.

Timeline

Proposals will be due on February 8, 2023, and contract implementation is scheduled for October 1, 2023. The contract is expected to run through June 30, 2024, with five, one-year options.

Evaluation

Bidder’s technical proposals will be scored out of a total 1550 points. OHCA will award PLEs an additional 50 points for qualifying, bringing the total up to 1600 points. OHCA may also choose to conduct oral presentations for an extra total of 50 points.

SoonerSelect Children’s Specialty Program RFP

Oklahoma will select one of the awarded SoonerSelect plans for a separate statewide contract to provide comprehensive integrated health coverage to foster children, former foster children up to 25 years of age, juvenile justice-involved children, and children receiving adoption assistance. Contract terms will be the same as the main SoonSelect procurement, running from October 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024, with five one-year renewal options.

Link to RFPs

Blog

Should you put the PHE’s Medicaid unwinding at the top of your to-do list?

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While the current federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration could be in place through the winter months, HMA’s team of experts see many reasons to put the PHE’s Medicaid unwinding planning at the top of your list now.

Without an extension, the PHE declaration will expire on January 11, 2023. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials pledged to provide 60-days’ notice before ending the PHE. As a result, since HHS did not announce an extension by November 12, we can assume that HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will extend the PHE beyond January.

However, congressional leaders are again considering proposals that would impact the PHE’s Medicaid policies. Such a change could advance during the lame duck session of Congress. For a variety of reasons, lawmakers could seek a statutory change that would de-link Medicaid’s continuous enrollment requirement, the 6.2 percentage point increase in the federal Medicaid match, and other Medicaid maintenance of effort policies from the PHE declaration. Congress could set a specific date for ending these Medicaid policies. Doing so would provide more certainty for planning for the end of the continuous Medicaid enrollment policy and its downstream implications for health insurance programs.

What can Medicaid agencies, health plans, providers and other stakeholders do now?

The transition from Medicaid’s continuous enrollment requirement to normal eligibility operations involves a myriad of policy decisions and operational changes that will impact enrollees. In turn, the end of Medicaid’s continuous coverage policy will also have great bearing on the business and operational strategies of managed care plans, providers and other stakeholders participating in the Medicaid and Marketplace programs.

HMA’s experts are working with state agencies, health plans, hospitals and health systems, and other stakeholders to identify options and workable solutions to prepare for these major changes. This work touches policy, organizational workstreams, systems, and payment. There are issues specific to Medicaid as well as the intersection with Marketplace, the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP), and other public programs.

Combining our collective on-the-ground experience in states with our federal policy insights, experts from across the HMA family of companies list below themes and immediate actions stakeholders can consider. These action steps are focused on ensuring states, managed care plans, providers and other stakeholders are prepared to immediately respond to the end of the Medicaid continuous enrollment policy and work with individuals to provide information and other support they may need to stay enrolled in a coverage program.

1. Monitor and prepare for federal activities, particularly during the lame duck session of Congress and into 2023. Healthcare policies are likely to feature prominently in Congress’ lame duck session in November and December. Decoupling the Medicaid continuous enrollment and enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) policies from the PHE is one issue under consideration. Any statutory changes to these policies may also include new requirements for the unwinding process. Stakeholders will want to closely monitor these discussions.

If Congress sets a statutory end date for the PHE’s Medicaid eligibility policies, this will provide the certainty needed for states to finalize PHE unwinding action plans with target dates for resuming normal eligibility operations. Notably, this may also drive conversations during states’ 2023 legislative sessions.

Consider the impact to your state and your organization – and any decisions you’ll be faced with – if the enhanced FMAP is decoupled from the PHE.  For example, if your state had the option to maintain continuous eligibility without the enhanced FMAP, would it do so?  States and stakeholders will want to revisit their Medicaid unwinding plans, consider options for meeting any new requirements, and update existing plans accordingly. Also, stakeholders can offer to serve as a resource to your state Medicaid agency and/or Congressional delegation regarding lame duck legislative proposals pertaining to Medicaid and the PHE.

2. Stay informed about state-specific landscapes. With statewide elections largely decided and expectations for a PHE end date sometime in the first part of 2023, now is the time for stakeholders to revisit when and how to engage with state Medicaid and other state agencies to support Medicaid eligibility unwinding plans. Stakeholders will want to solidify strategies and timing for engaging with states as unwinding plans are further solidified and eventually implemented.

Stakeholders can also monitor changes to states’ eligibility and enrollment rules – including initiatives designed to simplify eligibility rules, enhance eligibility and enrollment systems, and adjust managed care rate setting policies, among others. Many states are utilizing the temporary federal Medicaid flexibilities to alleviate the significant eligibility unwinding workload. Federal agencies also continue to regularly publish new information for states and stakeholders to consider. Some states are implementing policies designed to improve the transition from Medicaid to Marketplace. Understanding the implications of such policies will help stakeholders anticipate how ending Medicaid’s continuous coverage requirement will directly affect them.

3. Refresh strategies and messaging for outreach and assistance. While the PHE end date remains in flux, state plans for ending the Medicaid continuous coverage policy are still evolving. States are refining their beneficiary communication plans and may be developing updated guidance for stakeholders. Health plans, providers, and other stakeholders should align their messaging and outreach work accordingly and continue to build partnerships in communities across the state.

However, outreach alone will not be enough to reach all Medicaid enrollees. Many will need assistance in understanding and complying with changes that come with the end of the continuous enrollment policy. For example, stakeholder-provided redetermination assistance will be key to minimizing the number of enrollees who lose coverage for failure to complete the redetermination process and state requirements for stakeholder assistance will vary state by state.  

4. Update projected impact of enrollee transitions between Medicaid and Marketplace programs. For states and stakeholders, especially health plans, it is time to update projections about 2023 Medicaid and Marketplace enrollment. This may also require new analysis and strategies to address the changing population acuity and resulting impact on capitation revenue. For healthcare providers, health systems, and other healthcare facilities, the end of the Medicaid continuous enrollment policy is expected to drive significant changes in payer mix, and it could reduce revenue as well as impact qualifications for special payment programs, the 340B program, among others. Understanding these dynamics can help with budgeting and implementation of specific patient outreach and support strategies.

5. Develop strategies to translate experiences from Medicaid to Marketplace. Medicaid agencies, managed care plans, and providers have gained valuable insights about the needs of individuals who have remained continuously enrolled in Medicaid during the COVID-19 PHE. This is particularly true for Medicaid enrollees diagnosed with a mental illness, substance use disorder, or both. Medicaid providers and health plans have gained valuable insight on effective clinical care models, whole person care, partnerships with community-based organizations and reimbursement strategies that can better meet the needs of complex populations. Providers and plans can utilize these experiences to better support the millions of individuals who are expected to become eligible for Marketplace coverage after Medicaid’s continuous enrollment policy ends.

The HMA team continues to monitor the dynamic state and federal policy landscapes, including state planning documents and new federal guidance and informational tools. We have the ability to support stakeholders to prepare for the end of PHE and to support state and communities by modeling projected enrollment and payer mix changes across health coverage categories. Stakeholders should be using this time to address gaps in their plans for PHE unwinding and continue to identify and evaluate new options that may emerge to support beneficiaries in retaining health coverage.

This blog was written by Jane Longo, Andrea Maresca and Bill Snyder.

Brief & Report

HMA conducts assessment of unmet mental health needs of people living with HIV in Los Angeles County

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HMA Community Strategies conducted an assessment of unmet mental health needs of people living with HIV in Los Angeles County. The study aimed to understand behavioral health service utilization and the role that facility staff and institutional structures play in charting the trajectory of clients. The assessment includes the breadth of experiences and perspectives represented by each facet of the delivery system to inform stakeholders and funders of the best approach for future success.

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Highlights from Kaiser/HMA 50-state Medicaid Director survey

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This week, our In Focus section reviews highlights and shares key takeaways from the 22nd annual Medicaid Budget Survey conducted by The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and Health Management Associates (HMA). Survey results were released on October 25, 2022, in two new reports: How the Pandemic Continues to Shape Medicaid Priorities: Results from an Annual Medicaid Budget Survey for State Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023 and Medicaid Enrollment & Spending Growth: FY 2022 & 2023. The report was prepared by Elizabeth Hinton, Madeline Guth, Jada Raphael, Sweta Haldar, and Robin Rudowitz from the Kaiser Family Foundation and by Kathleen Giff­ordAimee Lashbrook, and Matt Wimmer from HMA; and Mike Nardone. The survey was conducted in collaboration with the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD).

This survey reports on policies in place or planned for FY 2022 and FY 2023, including state experiences with policies adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conclusions are based on information provided by the nation’s state Medicaid Directors.

Key Report Highlights

In the following sections, we highlight a few of the major findings from the reports. This is a fraction of what is covered in the 50-state survey reports, which include significant detail and findings on policy changes and initiatives related to delivery systems, health equity, benefits, telehealth, provider rates and taxes, and pharmacy. The reports also look at the opportunities, challenges, and priorities facing Medicaid programs.

Medicaid Enrollment and Spending Growth

The COVID-19 pandemic created significant implications for Medicaid. During this time, Medicaid enrollment has reached record highs due to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), enacted in March 2020, which authorized a 6.2 percentage point increase in the federal match rate, or Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), retroactive to January 1, 2020, and until the Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends. The increase was available to states that meet certain “maintenance of eligibility” (MOE) requirements. Since the survey, the PHE was extended to mid-January 2023, somewhat delaying the anticipated effects described in survey.

Medicaid enrollment growth slowed to 8.4 percent in FY 2022, after a sharp increase in FY 2021 (11.2 percent). Almost all responding states reported that the MOE continuous enrollment requirement was the most significant factor driving FY 2022 enrollment growth. Responding states expect Medicaid enrollment growth to decline (-0.4 percent) in FY 2023, based largely on the assumption that the PHE and the related MOE requirements would end by mid-FY 2023. States anticipate larger declines as Medicaid redeterminations and renewals resume.

In FY 2022, total Medicaid spending is expected to reach a peak growth of 12.5 percent, with enrollment growth as the primary driver. For FY 2023, total spending growth is expected to slow to 4.2 percent, assuming slower enrollment growth after the unwinding of the PHE. State Medicaid spending grew by 9.9 percent in FY 2022 and is projected to increase by 16.3 percent in FY 2023 once enhanced federal fiscal relief expires. If the PHE is extended, state spending increases and enrollment decreases that states anticipated for FY 2023 could occur later.

Figure 1 – Percent Change in Medicaid Spending and Enrollment, FY 1998-23

SOURCE: FY 2022-2023 spending data and FY 2023 enrollment data are derived from the KFF survey of Medicaid officials in 50 states and DC conducted by Health Management Associates, October 2022. 49 states submitted survey responses by Oct. 2022; state response rates varied across questions. Historic data reflects growth across all 50 states and DC and comes from various sources.

Delivery Systems

  • Capitated managed care remains the predominant delivery system for Medicaid in most states. Forty-six states operated some form of Medicaid managed care (managed care organizations (MCOs) and/or primary care case management (PCCM)). Forty-one states contracted with risk-based MCOs. Of these, only Colorado and Nevada did not offer MCOs statewide. Only five states – Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, and Wyoming – lacked a comprehensive Medicaid managed care model.
    • Thirty-four states, including Distrct of Columbia, operate MCOs only, five states operate PCCM programs only, and seven states operate both MCOs and a PCCM program.
    • Twenty-seven states contracted with one or more PHPs to provide Medicaid benefits, including behavioral health care, dental care, vision care, non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), and long-term services and supports (LTSS).
  • Of the forty-one states that contracted with MCOs, 35 reported that 75 percent or more of their Medicaid beneficiaries were enrolled in MCOs as of July 1, 2022.

Figure 2 – MCO Managed Care Penetration Rates for Select Groups of Medicaid Beneficiaries as of July 1, 2022

SOURCE: KFF survey of Medicaid officials in 50 states and DC conducted by HMA, October 2022.

Medicaid Managed Care and Delivery System Changes

  • California, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York reported expanding mandatory MCO enrollment for targeted populations.
  • Missouri and Ohio reported introducing specialized managed care programs for children with complex needs.
  • California, Nevada, and Tennessee indicated that they were carving in certain long-term services and supports (LTSS) into their managed care programs.
  • California and Ohio reported carving out pharmacy services in FY 2022 or FY 2023, respectively. The District of Columbia carved out emergency medical transportation from its MCO contracts in FY 2022.
  • Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington reported changes to their PCCM programs.
  • Virginia plans to implement Cardinal Care in FY 2023, merging the state’s two existing managed care programs: Medallion 4.0 (serving children, pregnant individuals, and adults) and Commonwealth Coordinated Care Plus (CCC Plus) (serving seniors, children and adults with disabilities, and individuals who require LTSS).
  • Forty-one states reported at least one specified delivery system and payment reform initiative (e.g. Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH), ACA Health Homes, Accountable Care Organization (ACO), Episode of Care Initiatives, All-Payer Claims Database (APCD)).

Health Equity

  • Twenty-five states reported using at least one specified strategy to improve race, ethnicity, and language (REL) data completeness. Of the 45 responding states, 16 states reported requiring MCOs and other applicable contractors to collect REL data, 12 states reported that eligibility, renewal materials, and/or applications explain how REL data will be used and/or why reporting these data are important, nine states reported linking Medicaid enrollment data with public health department vital records data, and eight states reported partnering with one or more health information exchanges (HIEs) to obtain additional REL data for Medicaid enrollees.
  • Twelve of 44 responding states reported at least one financial incentive tied to health equity in place in FY 2022. The vast majority of these incentives were in place in managed care arrangements (11 of 13). Within managed care arrangements, states most commonly reported linking or planning to link capitation withholds, pay for performance incentives, and/or state-directed provider payments to health equity-related quality measures. Only two states (Connecticut and Minnesota), reported a FFS financial incentive in FY 2022. Five additional states report plans to implement financial incentives linked to health equity in FY 2023.
  • Sixteen of 37 responding MCO states reported at least one specified health equity MCO requirement in place in FY 2022. The number of MCO states with at least one specified health equity MCO requirement in place is expected to grow significantly in FY 2023, from 16 to 25 states. Examples of MCO requirements to address health equity include having a health equity plan, designating a Health Equity Officer, and staff training on health equity and/or implicit bias.

Figure 3 – MCO Requirements to Address Health Equity, FYs 2022-23

SOURCE: KFF survey of Medicaid officials conducted by HMA, October 2022; n=37 states.

Benefits

  • Thirty-three states reported new or enhanced benefits in FY 2022 and 34 states are adding or enhancing benefits in FY 2023. Two states reported benefit cuts or limitations in FY 2022 and no states reported cuts or limitations in FY 2023.

Figure 4 – Select Categories of Benefit Enhancements or Additions, FYs 2022-23

SOURCE: KFF survey of Medicaid officials conducted by HMA, October 2022; Arkansas and Georgia did not respond.

  • Behavioral Health Services. States reported service expansions across the behavioral health care continuum, including institutional, intensive, outpatient, home and community-based, and crisis services. States reported addressing SUD outcomes, including coverage of opioid treatment programs, peer supports, and enhanced care management. At least ten states are expanding coverage of crisis services, which aim to connect Medicaid enrollees experiencing behavioral health crises to appropriate community-based care, including mobile crisis response services and crisis stabilization centers.
  • Pregnancy and Postpartum Services. In April 2022, a temporary option under ARPA to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months took effect. In addition to the states that took advantage of this eligibility change, some states are enhancing coverage of pregnancy and post-partum services. Nine states (California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Virginia) are adding coverage of services provided by doulas and seven states (Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont) are investing in the implementation or expansion of home visiting programs.
  • Preventive Services. Sixteen states reported expansions of preventive care in FY 2022 or FY 2023. For example, seven states are expanding services to prevent and/or manage diabetes, such as continuous glucose monitoring. Other reported preventive benefit enhancements relate to asthma services, vaccinations, and genetic testing and/or counseling.
  • Services Targeting Social Determinants of Health. Many states reported new and expanded benefits targeting social determinants of health. Twelve states reported new or expanded housing-related supports, as well as other services and programs tailored for individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of being homeless.
  • Dental Services. Nine states are adding comprehensive adult dental coverage, while additional states report expanding specific dental services for adults.

Telehealth

  • Most states have or plan to adopt permanent Medicaid FFS telehealth expansions that will remain in place even after the pandemic, though some are considering guardrails on such policies. Nearly all responding states that contract MCOs reported that changes to FFS telehealth policies would also apply to MCOs.

Figure 5 – Changes to FFS Medicaid Telehealth Policy, FY 2022 or FY 2023

SOURCE: KFF survey of Medicaid officials conducted by HMA, October 2022; n=48 states.

  • Nearly all responding states added or expanded audio-only telehealth coverage in Medicaid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty-eight states reported that they newly added audio-only coverage while 19 states expanded existing coverage. Nearly all states reported audio-only coverage of mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services. States least frequently reported audio-only coverage of home and community-based services (HCBS) and dental services. Two states (Mississippi and Wyoming) reported no coverage of audio-only telehealth for the services in question.
  • Telehealth utilization by Medicaid enrollees has been high during the pandemic but has decreased and/or leveled off more recently. States noted that telehealth utilization trends over time correspond to COVID-19 outbreaks, with higher utilization during COVID-19 surges and lower utilization when case counts are lower. In general, states reported that telehealth utilization was projected to continue at higher levels than before the pandemic, at least for some service categories.
  • Thirty-seven states (out of 47 responding) reported that behavioral health services were among those with the highest utilization. Additionally, a majority of states reported high utilization of evaluation and management (E/M) services and/or other physician/qualified health care professional office/outpatient services, including primary care.
  • States reported ACA expansion adults as one of the groups most likely to use telehealth (about one-third of responding states), followed by children and individuals with disabilities (each identified by about one-sixth of responding states).
  • Concerns regarding services delivered via telehealth included the quality of diagnoses, whether audio-only telehealth may be less effective, and inadequate access.
  • Key issues that may influence future Medicaid telehealth policy decisions include analysis of data, state legislation and federal guidance, and cost concerns.

Provider Rates and Taxes

  • In FY 2022, all 49 responding states reported implementing rate increases for at least one category of provider and 19 states reported implementing rate restrictions. In FY 2023, 48 states reported at least one planned rate increase and the number of states planning to restrict rates increased to 25 states.
  • States reported rate increases for nursing facilities and home and community-based services (HCBS) providers more often than other provider categories. The survey also found an increased focus on dental rates with about half of reporting states (20 in FY 2022 and 25 in FY 2023) reporting implementing or plans to implement a dental rate increase

Figure 6 – FFS Provider Rate Changes Implemented in FY 2022 and Adopted for FY 2023

SOURCE: KFF survey of Medicaid officials in 50 states and DC conducted by HMA, October 2022.

  • States continue to rely on provider taxes and fees to fund a portion of the non-federal share of Medicaid costs. All states but Alaska have at least one provider tax or fee in place. Thirty-eight states had three or more provider taxes in place in FY 2022 and eight other states had two provider taxes in place.
  • The most common Medicaid provider taxes in place in FY 2022 were taxes on nursing facilities (46 states), followed by taxes on hospitals (44 states), intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (33 states), and MCOs (18 states).
  • Three states (Alabama, Mississippi, and Wyoming) reported plans to add new ambulance taxes in FY 2023.

Pharmacy

  • Most states that contract with MCOs report that the pharmacy benefit is carved into managed care (34 out of 41 states that contract with MCOs). Six states (California, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and West Virginia) report that pharmacy benefits are carved out of MCO contracts as of July 1, 2022. California was the latest to carve out pharmacy benefits as of January 1, 2022. Two states (New York and Ohio) report plans to carve out pharmacy from MCO contracts in state FY 2023 or later.
  • In FY 2022, Kentucky began contracting with a single PBM for the managed care population. Louisiana and Mississippi report that they will require MCOs to contract with a single PBM designated by the state in FY 2023 and FY 2024, respectively.
  • Seven states (Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Washington) have value-based arrangements (VBAs) in place with one or more drug manufacturers.
  • More than half of responding states reported newly implementing or expanding at least one initiative to contain prescription drug costs in FY 2022 or FY 2023.
  • Six states (Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada) reported recently implemented or planned policies to prohibit spread pricing or require pass through pricing in MCO contracts with PBMs.

Key Opportunities, Challenges, and Priorities in FY 2023 and Beyond

When asked to identify the top challenges for FY 2023 and beyond, Medicaid directors listed the following:

  • The unwinding of PHE emergency measures and the resumption of redeterminations.
  • Expiration of emergency authorities.
  • Lasting focus on COVID-19, including vaccinations, long-COVID, decreased utilization of preventive care services, and future emergency preparedness.

Medicaid directors stated that future priorities shaped by COVID-19 include:

  • Health equity.
  • Specific populations and service categories, including behavioral health, long-term services and supports, and maternal and child health.
  • Health care workforce challenges.
  • Payment and delivery system initiatives and operations.
  • IT system modernization.
  • Social determinants of health.

Medicaid directors note that COVID-19 has presented both new opportunities and challenges and has also shifted and shaped ongoing Medicaid priorities.

Links to Kaiser/HMA 50-State Survey Reports

Blog

HMA celebrates Native American heritage month

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Health Management Associates (HMA) has a rich history of serving the healthcare infrastructure needs of Native American and Alaska Native communities – through healthcare IT support, clinical governance for change management, culturally competent stakeholder engagement, and revenue cycle management that implements an approach that is tailored to the provider and payer entities that deliver care in Native American and Alaska Native communities.

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people experience disproportionately poorer health status compared to Americans as a whole. AI/ANs born today have a life expectancy that is 5.5 years less than the national average for all races. HMA has expertise with healthcare issues that uniquely impact American Indian and Alaska Native populations and is experienced in addressing these issues through American Indian and Alaska Native leadership engagement that is culturally sensitive and respectful.

Case Studies

Examples of HMA’s work with tribal health providers include:

Skokomish Tribal Health Center: Policy, Programs, Operations, And Training

HMA provided training and technical assistance to Skokomish Indian Tribal Health Center in Skokomish, Washington. This support includes the provision of clinical oversight services by one of HMA’s clinicians as Interim Medical Director.

HMA: (1) assessed the Tribal Health Center’s billing practices and assisted in the development of a procurement and contract with a new third-party billing vendor; (2) developed a screening and intervention program for medications for addiction treatment (MAT) of opioid and alcohol use disorders, including training for providers and administrative and medical staff; (3) established policies and procedures to support the clinic to move to a primary care medical home model of care, including development of a back office manual and trainings to clinic staff and providers; and (4) provided technical assistance to the Tribal Health Center as it developed telehealth programs for both video visits and remote patient monitoring (RPM), including development of policies and procedures for maintaining operations during emergencies, procedures and workflow approaches for working with IT vendors and potential purchase and implementation of a new electronic health record.

Fort Belknap Tribes: Assessing Behavioral Health Infrastructure

HMA conducted a feasibility assessment to determine how best Fort Belknap Tribal Health Department could take over administration of behavioral health services through a 638 contract with the Indian Health Service (IHS) agency. To do this, HMA conducted a review of select documentation, contracts, and data sets, including clinical and financial data. Through site visits, HMA conducted focus groups and interviews with tribal, IHS, and community stakeholders. HMA also provided research of other tribal behavioral health programs and interviews with tribes successfully delivering comprehensive behavioral health services.

Chickasaw Nation Department of Family Services: Implementing Practice Changes

HMA provided consultation regarding integration of behavioral health into primary care sites, sharing expertise and advice on privacy and confidentiality regulations and integrated care, how to manage during the transition from traditional behavioral health to integrated care, ideas for including medical family therapy more broadly in patient care, and the implementation of patient assessments.

Montana Healthcare Foundation: Identifying and Developing Opportunities with Tribal and Medicaid Leadership:

The Montana Healthcare Foundation (MHCF) convened tribal health care leaders to develop shared priorities to jointly pursue with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and the Legislature.  HMA was engaged by MHCF to help the group assess implementation options related to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) revised interpretation of the 100 percent federal match for state Medicaid programs for American Indian Medicaid enrollees for services. HMA proposed options for how DPHHS can use the new match funding to support IHS and tribal health facilities as they implement these new processes and support shared priorities. Priorities identified by the tribal health leaders included operational and policy issues such as improving health information technology capacity; identifying opportunities to compact aspects of health care delivery from IHS; and improving clinic operations through business management training.   

Montana Office of Public Instruction SAMHSA Tribal Systems of Care Grantee: Systems of Care Evaluation

HMA served as the independent evaluator for Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Tribal Systems of Care Evaluation. The five-year evaluation assesses the impact of High-Fidelity Wraparound services being provided to American Indian students in schools on six tribal reservations throughout the state. Evaluation activities include tracking quantitative data to measure progress toward grant goals and tracking qualitative data to assess impact of wraparound activities through key informant interviews, small group listening sessions, and site visits. Evaluation findings are regularly reported to SAMHSA and presented locally to key stakeholders.

Montana Tribally Operated Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Continuum of Care Concept Brief

HMA worked in coordination with the American Indian Health Leaders (AIHL) workgroup, a group made up of leadership from Montana’s seven tribes representing tribal health departments and urban Indian health centers, to develop a SUD Continuum of Care Concept brief, describing potential approaches for design and financing of a jointly tribally operated SUD treatment facilities. This work was conducted through a contract with Montana Healthcare Foundation.

Montana Tribally Operated Substance Use Disorder Continuum of Care

HMA provides technical assistance and facilitation and consulting expertise to support the development of a statewide joint tribally operated SUD Continuum of Care. HMA facilitated discussions with AIHL and Chemical Dependency Center (CD) directors. HMA provided subject matter expertise on the various design options available based on American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) service needs criteria as well as analysis support. HMA is also providing consulting support on financial and operational planning for the development of new facilities. This work could include methods for short-term and long-term forecasting and scenario modeling, identification, and negotiation of capital and operational financing for construction and start-up phase, and technical assistance on revenue cycle best practices to ensure satisfactory patient experience and sustainable revenue. This work is being conducted through a contract with the MHCF.

Health Policy and Advocacy

HMA consultants have worked with the following organizations associated with American Indian health policy and advocacy issues:

American Indian Health Commission of Washington State

A tribally driven non-profit organization with a mission of improving health outcomes for American Indians and Alaska Natives through a health policy focus at the Washington state level. AIHC works on behalf of the 29 federally recognized Indian tribes and two urban Indian health organizations.

Southcentral Foundation

An Alaska Native-owned, nonprofit health care delivery and advocacy organization serving nearly 65,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Borough and 55 rural villages. Southcentral Foundation and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium own and manage the Alaska Native Medical Center that serves the entire Alaska Native and American Indian population in the state. 

Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board

Engaged in many areas of Indian health, including legislation, policy analysis, health promotion and disease prevention, as well as data surveillance and research. The Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) is a non-profit tribal advisory organization serving the forty-three federally recognized tribes of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. 

Messengers for Health

A non-profit organization located on the Apsáalooke (Crow) Reservation in Montana whose mission is to improve the health of individuals on the Crow Indian Reservation and outlying areas through community-based projects that empower communities to assess and address their own unique health-related challenges.

For more information about HMA’s Native American and Alaska Native support services, contact [email protected].

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CMS finalizes 2023 landscape for Medicare payment and policy

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This week, our In Focus section reviews the remaining Medicare payment and policy rules, finalized over the last several days by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), that will shape the landscape for the Medicare program in 2023 and beyond. These include the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS), the Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) and Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) Payment System, the Home Health Prospective Payment System and Home Infusion Therapy Services updates, and the End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) payment rules.

The final Medicare rules are directionally aligned with the agency’s policy priorities, including improving health equity and addressing the health and health-related needs of rural and underserved communities, promoting value-based, whole-person care, and removing barriers to behavioral health services, among other issues.

Across these rules, CMS took some steps where they have authority to mitigate reductions in payment rates for some provider types. Final payment and policy changes, however, will inform stakeholders’ federal advocacy efforts with Congress. Specifically, as part of an end of year legislative package lawmakers are considering legislative proposals to address the 2023 payment levels and their relationship to general inflation and the scheduled payment cuts for physicians. These issues and Medicare program solvency are expected to remain hot topics throughout 2023.

For today’s blog our HMA experts highlight a few of the finalized policy changes contained in the aforementioned regulations that will take effect on or after January 1, 2023. The HMA Medicare team will continue to analyze these policies for their immediate implications. Additionally, final policies and CMS’ response to commenters offer important insights that providers, vendors, and other stakeholders will want to incorporate in their future policy, financial, and operational strategies.

Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule

On November 1, 2022, CMS released final updates and policy changes for Medicare payments under the PFS, and other Medicare Part B issues. This rule largely finalizes many of the policies described in HMA’s earlier summary of the PFS proposed rule. Notably, CMS finalized updates to the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) largely as proposed. The agency expects these changes will renew and broaden provider interest in participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). The new MSSP opportunities will support CMS’ work towards its goal that by 2030 100 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will be in a care relationship with accountability for quality and total cost of care. As expected, CMS also finalized proposals intended to enhance access to behavioral health services and strengthen the behavioral health model within the Medicare program. The changes represent a major shift in traditional Medicare’s coverage of services to identify and treat mental health conditions and substance used disorders. CMS plans to address payment for new codes that describe caregiver behavioral management training in CY 2024 rulemaking.

Notable policies that will be of interest to Medicare stakeholders include:

  • Payment Rates and Inflation: The conversion factor used to determine payments to physicians through the PFS will be $33.06 in 2023, a decrease of $1.55 from the 2022 conversion factor. The final payment update reflects the following dynamics:
    • Expiration of a statutory one-year 3 percent increase in payments,
    • A statutory 0 percent payment update for CY 2023, and
    • A budget neutrality adjustment across all billing codes resulting from modifications to PFS weights which increased the relative value of primary care billing codes.

This cut to the conversion factor is driven by statutory requirements. The physician community is actively advocating to Congress that they need an update to their payments given the high levels of inflation and the lack of automatic updates built in to the PFS.

CMS also updated the information under the PFS to account for current trends in the delivery of health care, especially concerning independent versus facility-based practices. CMS indicated the updates and improved public use files respond to requests the agency has received to provide more granular information that separates the specialty-specific impacts by site of service. According to CMS, stakeholders are seeking to better understand how Medicare payment policies are directly responsible for the consolidation of privately-owned physician practices and freestanding supplier facilities into larger health systems.

  • Medicare Shared Savings Program: CMS finalized significant updates to MSSP that are aligned with the agency’s overall value-based care strategy of growth, alignment, and equity. These policies include paying advance shared savings to certain new ACOs that can be used to support their participation in the Shared Savings Program, a health equity adjustment to an ACO’s quality score, a revised benchmarking methodology, and allowing longer periods of time for ACOs to transition to downside risk. This package of changes are intended to increase participation in MSSP and in particular participation in rural and underserved areas.
  • Behavioral health: The final rule expands the types of behavioral health providers eligible for reimbursement under Medicare Part B. Marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors, addiction counselors, certified peer recovery specialists, and others will be able to provide behavioral health services while being under general supervision rather than “direct” supervision. Psychologists and social workers that are part of a primary care team will also be eligible for payment to help manage behavioral health needs. Additionally, CMS confirmed that Opioid Treatment Programs may bill Medicare for services performed by mobile units without obtaining a separate registration and increasing payment rates to Opioid Treatment Programs.
  • Telehealth: CMS finalized several policies related to Medicare telehealth services, reflecting statutory requirements of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2022 and the agency’s ongoing evaluation of temporarily available services. The changes related to the CAA of 2022 include extending for 151 days beyond the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) the following coverage provisions: allowing telehealth services to be furnished in any geographic area and in any originating site setting (including the beneficiary’s home); allowing certain services to be furnished via audio-only telecommunications systems; allowing physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists to furnish telehealth services; delaying the onset of the in-person visit requirements for mental health services furnished during the PHE; and making policy changes consistent with those named above under the payment systems for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHC).
  • Ground Ambulance: CMS affirmed that its expanded list of covered destinations for ground ambulance transports was for the duration of the COVID-19 PHE only. The regulation also finalized changes to the long awaited Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection Instrument, including clarifying to process for requesting exemption from reporting cost data through this collection device.

Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Surgical Care Payment System Final Rule

Also on November 1, 2022, CMS published the calendar year 2023 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) and Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) Payment System final rule. The rule presents new opportunities to address access to emergency services in rural communities and updates other outpatient and ASC policies.

  • Payment rates and Inflation: CMS increased hospital outpatient and ambulatory surgical center payments by 3.8 percent in 2023 above 2022 rates. This reflects a 4.1 percent hospital market basket increase plus a 0.3 percentage point reduction for productivity and is consistent with Medicare’s 2023 hospital inpatient payment increase. The hospital industry has expressed deep concern to Congress and CMS that although the 4.1 percent market basket increase is as high as it has been in many previous years, it lags behind the measure of general inflation (October 2022 consumer price Index = 8.2 percent)
  • Remote Behavioral health: CMS finalized its proposal to cover as an outpatient service remote behavioral health services provided by clinical staff of hospital outpatient departments, including critical access hospitals (CAHs), to beneficiaries in their homes. This policy was initially permitted under CMS’ COVID-19 PHE emergency rulemaking but this is now covered on a more permanent basis.
    • In 2023 beneficiaries would need to receive an in-person service within the 6 months prior to the first time hospital clinical staff provide the remote behavioral health services. CMS also is requiring an in-person service without the use of communications technology within 12 months of each behavioral health service furnished remotely.
    • The agency also finalized coverage of audio-only telehealth services in instances where the beneficiary is unable to use, does not wish to use, or does not have access to two-way, audio/video technology.
  • Algorithm driven services: CMS finalized policy to pay separately (rather than bundle payment) for Algorithm-driven services that assist practitioners in making clinical assessments. This includes clinical decision support software, clinical risk modeling, and computer aided detection (CAD).
  • Rural Emergency Hospitals (REH) : CMS finalized conditions of participation, payment rates, and Medicare enrollment procedures for the new REH provider type largely as proposed. The new REH program will be effective January 1, 2023. Federal policymakers believe the REH provider type could provide a more sustainable option for rural hospitals facing closure and to support access to care in rural and underserved communities. A previous HMA blog explains the payment and service parameters for the REH option.
    • Hospitals and health systems and the rural communities they serve will want to analyze the final requirements for health and safety standards, staffing, and physical environment and emergency preparedness and other expectations and balance these with community perspectives to determine the feasibility of this pathway.
  • Site neutral payment policy: CMS finalized its proposal to exempt Rural Sole Community Hospitals (SCHs) from the Medicare policy which pays clinic visit services 40 percent of the OPPS payment rate when provided at hospital outpatient departments. Instead, CMS will pay these providers full OPPS rates for clinic visits.
  • 340B Drug Program: CMS finalized a payment rate of Average Sales Price plus 6 percent under the 340B program.

Home Health Prospective Payment System Rate Update and Home Infusion Therapy Services Requirements

On October 31, 2022, CMS finalized the calendar year 2023 Home Health Prospective Payment System (HH PPS) payment rates. CMS projects that aggregate spending for home health agencies in 2023 will increase by 0.7 percent, compared to 2022. This is a significant update as compared to the 4.2 percent decrease the agency proposed earlier this year. The originally proposed payment cut was in part due to CMS’s requirement to implement at statutory budget neutrality requirement for the Patient-Driven Groupings Model. While there was fervent industry pushback and advocacy to eliminate the proposed payment adjustments, CMS instead used its discretionary authority to implement a phased approach to payment reductions. The first half will be effective in 2023, and the remaining permanent adjustment and any other potential adjustments needed to account for behavior change will be proposed in future rulemaking. CMS’ payment approach is expected to factor heavily in the overall stability and market dynamics within the home health agency industry in the months ahead.

Other notable final rule Home Health policies include:

  • CMS finalized a permanent cap on wage index decreases to promote predictability in payments and smooth year-to-year changes. This was also implemented within the Inpatient Prospective Payment System.
  • CMS finalized the Expanded Home Health Value-Based Purchasing (HHVBP) Model home health agency baseline year to CY 2022 and the Model baseline year to CY 2023.
  • CMS will begin collecting data on the use of telecommunications technology on home health claims voluntarily starting on January 1, 2023, and on a mandatory basis beginning on July 1, 2023. Further details are expected to be issued in January 2023.

ESRD Prospective Payment System Final Rule

Also on October 31, 2022, CMS released the calendar year 2023 ESRD Prospective Payment System Final Rule. In addition to updating the payment rates, the rule updates requirements for the ESRD Quality Incentive Program (QIP). Looking ahead CMS plans to consider comments in response to several requests for information as it updates the ESRD QIP, works to align resource use with payment, ensure equitable access to technologies that improve health and quality of life.

Additional impactful policies for providers and stakeholders include:

  • CMS did not approve any of the three new technologies which applied for pass-through payment. While CMS has created a payment mechanism to promote innovation, it has proved challenging to actually access this payment mechanism. That may slow investment in the space if CMS continues to set such a high bar.
  • As laid out in the final rule, CMS remains on track to fold all oral drugs including phosphate binders into the bundle when the statutory ban expires in 2025.
  • CMS received many comments for its RFI regarding TDAPA, the new drug pass-through payment program in ESRD. It is likely that CMS will dedicate significant attention to this topic in the next rulemaking cycle. In particular, the RFI focused on how CMS might add new money to the ESRD bundle when new drugs exit pass-through, including the potential for accounting for other drugs which are replaced by the new products.

While providers and stakeholders must analyze the immediate impact of the final rules, it is also essential to consider the broader context of CMS’ reimbursement and policy decisions.

Notably, there is more urgency for the provider community, Medicare Advantage plans, and the broader Medicare stakeholder community to prepare for the imminent end of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration. Congress and the Administration have already begun to identify and make permanent certain flexibilities afforded during the COVID-19 PHE. Other flexibilities will be phased out or ended. Looking ahead to this transition, thoughtful preparation and consideration of the Medicare policy context and opportunities will be critical.

For additional information, please contact Amy Bassano, Mark Desmarais, Zach GaumerAndrea Maresca, and Aaron Tripp.