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Blog

HMA recognizes unseen populations on International Overdose Awareness Day 2023 

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In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), August 31, 2023, we take time to pause and reflect on this year’s theme of “recognizing those people who go unseen.” HMA stands with those affected by overdose and promotes an ecological approach to addressing substance use, one that acknowledges the many facets of the crisis that leads to approximately 300 overdose deaths every day in the United States.  

We recognize that many Americans experience the repercussions of overdose in ways that are often unseen: friends and family members who act as first responders by reversing an overdose with naloxone; seniors and older adults experiencing addiction; pregnant and parenting people who use drugs and/or medications for opioid use disorder; those who are often unable to access resources due to structural barriers such as homelessness or those living in rural and frontier communities; and, the justice-involved population, who serve as a salient example and often go unseen. Research has confirmed that overdose is the leading cause of death among people leaving carceral settings, as well as the third leading cause of deaths in custody in U.S. jails.  

We also recognize that many of the racial disparities in U.S. overdose deaths are unseen and underrepresented in national dialogue about the crisis. At a time when people of color are dying at a higher rate than non-Hispanic White people, the International Overdose Awareness Day theme of recognizing those unseen is timely, and apt. Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaskan Native people had the highest drug overdose death rates in both 2020 and 2021. Rates of overdose among Black or African American men outpace other groups. Racial disparities extend beyond overdose fatality rates and into the broader substance use disorder continuum of care. People of color are offered medications for opioid use disorder at a rate almost 50% lower than non-Hispanic White people, and the duration of their treatment tends to be shorter; ultimately leading to increased risk of returning to use. These statistics only reinforce the need for an expanded, comprehensive, and equity-centered approach to care

Finally, we recognize that the overdose landscape is developing unseen changes, as overdose deaths involving psychostimulants such as methamphetamine are increasing with and without synthetic opioid involvement. Polysubstance use is the norm, not the exception. The healthcare sector must broaden and expand services to meet the current needs, including incorporating harm reduction strategies for stimulants, especially in states with high concentrations of deaths such as Nevada, West Virginia, Maine, and among non-Hispanic American Indians or Alaskan Natives.  

HMA honors the often-unseen work and expertise of those leading advances in the field including peers, public health professionals, people who use drugs, and friends and family who become first responders. In remembrance of those impacted by overdose, our call to action is to honor unseen populations affected by this crisis, to elevate existing work by and for these communities, and to continuously seek innovative approaches that ensure we carry everyone forward into a responsive system of care.  

Someone you know or may have seen may be struggling with addiction. Help is always available. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers free, confidential, and 24/7 support in both English and Spanish at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). 

For more information on HMA overdose prevention services visit the HMA Institute on Addiction website.  

Blog

Digital innovation to be a featured topic at 2023 HMA fall conference

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Advancements in digital health and data technology have made for rapid and remarkable transformation of the healthcare landscape. From wearable devices to mobile health apps to telemedicine platforms, the integration of digital solutions and patient data is disrupting every facet of healthcare – to say nothing of the AI revolution that has only just begun. While this innovation is exciting and meaningful, it still has runway to truly deliver “better, cheaper, faster” for patients. These innovations and others will be featured at Health Management Associates annual fall conference, being held October 30-31, 2023.

Digital innovation has graduated from its “experimentation/compliance” phase and is now in its “expectation of results” phase. Healthcare payers and providers should incorporate digital into core payment and delivery strategies to deliver better outcomes and a better care experience at a most efficient cost. Health data management is creating more efficient platforms to provide the right care at the right time to the right patient. Federal policy programs like the 21st Century Cures Act, and CMS Interoperability and Patient Access rule have opened the door for providers, payers, and applications to make better use of health information, with patients more in control. 

While this level of innovation is exciting anywhere, it is particularly exciting to see how it is enabling improvements in publicly funded healthcare programs to deliver more effective care. HMA consultants are leading conversations and presentations on how digital innovation is driving change in Medicare, Medicaid, and state marketplaces. 

Key Sessions (full agenda and panelists here)

The Dynamic World of Publicly Sponsored Health Care: Trends and Innovations: Learn about new payment models, quality and equity initiatives, new products and services, workforce, likely policy initiatives, and new ways of reaching and serving members. (Monday 9:15-10:30am plenary session)

Digital Health, Interoperability, and Information Sharing: From Compliance to Innovation: Discover how early adopters will show how they have moved from compliance to innovation by embracing data sharing, FHIR APIs, and third-party applications using real-time data. (Monday 1:30-3:00pm breakout session)

The Pitch: Innovative and Potentially Disruptive Models in Care DeliveryHear the latest innovations in care delivery models and will also gain an understanding of how to best approach managed care partners when considering value-based contracting or other network arrangements. (Monday 3:30-5:00pm breakout session)

Behavioral Health System Redesign: Learn why federal and state governments and the healthcare delivery system must collaborate in new and innovative ways to meet the rapidly growing demand for a more integrated behavioral health system (Sunday preconference, this session and others running 1pm – 5pm)

To learn more about HMA’s work in the digital innovation space, please contact Stuart Venzke in HMA’s IT Advisory Services, or Ryan Howells who leads digital health work for HMA/Leavitt Partners’ DC practice.

Blog

CMS continues to rollout new initiatives, what to watch for in the fall

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In this week’s In Focus, we continue our review of Medicare developments from this summer and look ahead at Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) activities to watch for this fall.

CMS ACO Strategy Update

In a July 31, 2023, Health Affairs Forefront blog, CMS leaders outlined the agency’s plan to further accelerate the growth and accessibility of accountable care organizations (ACOs), especially for beneficiaries in rural and underserved areas. The article signals the agency’s continued commitment to increasing participation in ACOs and future policy and model initiatives that CMS could undertake to achieve those goals.

In particular, the CMS Innovation Center is considering testing models and features to support Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) ACOs in increasing investments in primary care. This initiative might include piloting ACO-based primary care models that provide prospective payments in an effort to reduce reliance on fee-for-service (FFS), support innovations in care delivery, and increase access to advanced primary care in underserved communities.

CMS leaders point to a second component of its ACO strategy in the calendar year (CY) 2024 proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) rule. The proposed PFS includes technical updates to the Advance Investment Payment (AIP), which provides financial support for providers who participate in the MSSP. The proposed PFS rule also includes several opportunities for the public to inform CMS’s ongoing ACO work, including considerations for adding higher-risk participation options in the MSSP, ways to better support collaboration between ACOs and community-based organizations to meet health-related social needs, and other initiatives. HMA discussed the PFS changes in an earlier In Focus.

CMS also announced refinements to the ACO Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (REACH) Model on August 18. The agency’s three goals in making these changes are to:

  • Increase predictability for model participants (e.g., policies to change certain beneficiary alignment requirements and refinements to eligibility criteria for high-need ACOs
  • Protect against inappropriate risk score growth (e.g., revisions to the risk-adjustment methodology)
  • Advance health equity (e.g., revisions and expansions to the health equity benchmark adjustment)

These topics are of importance to CMS across its model portfolio and are, in part, based on experience the agency has gained in running the ACO REACH model. Below is a summary of several key policy changes that will take effect in 2024. The entire list can be found on the CMS website.

Finally, CMS released the request for applications (RFA) for the Innovation Center’s Making Care Primary (MCP) model previously announced in June. This voluntary model is scheduled to begin in June 2024 and run for 10.5 years. It will have three participation tracks that build upon previous Innovation Center primary care initiatives.

The MCP model is designed to improve care for beneficiaries by supporting the delivery of advanced primary care services. This framework provides a pathway for primary care clinicians who have varying levels of experience with value-based care to gradually adopt prospective, population-based payments while building the infrastructure to improve behavioral health and specialty integration and drive more equitable access to care. CMS is working with Medicaid agencies in eight states—Colorado, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Washington—to engage in full care transformation across payers, with plans to engage private payers in the coming months.

The RFA provides additional details about the model’s payment, care delivery, quality, and other policies. The application period opens September 4, 2023, and closes November 30, 2023. CMS plans to select participants in winter 2024. Onboarding for participants will take place April−July 2024.

The HMA team continues to review the RFA and is available to assist clients in determining whether this model may be a good fit as well as with assistance in submitting the application.

What to Watch

Comments on the Medicare CY payment rules (home health, end stage renal disease, physician, and outpatient hospital) are due in early fall. CMS will review the comments on each of the proposals and finalize each rule by November 1. Some stakeholders, such as physicians and home health suppliers, may seek congressional action to mitigate payment cuts that CMS has proposed.

In addition, CMS is expected to continue implementing the drug pricing related provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The agency already has released several guidance documents about the process. The list of the first 10 drugs to be negotiated is due to be published September 1, 2023, and manufacturers of selected drugs will have one month to sign agreements to participate in negotiations and provide information for CMS’s consideration in the negotiation process.

The HMA team will continue to evaluate Innovation Center opportunities, CMS payment regulations, and IRA implementation. If you have questions about these topics, contact Amy Bassano ([email protected]), Kevin Kirby ([email protected]), or Andrea Maresca ([email protected]).

Blog

Arizona releases Medicaid ALTCS-EPD Program RFP

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This week, our In Focus section reviews the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS) Elderly and Physically Disabled (EPD) Program request for proposals (RFP), which the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) released on August 1, 2023. The ALTCS-EPD program covers 26,000 individuals, representing approximately 38 percent of the ALTCS managed care population. The remaining ALTCS members are covered under a state-run model through the Department of Economic Security, Division of Developmental Disabilities (DES/DDD) health plans, which provide long-term care (LTC) to individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Contracts for ALTCS-EPD are worth approximately $1.6 billion and will take effect October 1, 2024.

Background

ALTCS is one of the oldest Medicaid managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS) programs in the country, providing integrated physical health, behavioral health, and LTSS to individuals who are 65 years of age or older or who have a disability and require nursing facility level care. Beneficiaries may live in assisted living facilities or receive in-home services. The ALTCS-EPD program covers nearly all Arizonans who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare statewide. Winning managed care organizations (MCOs) also will be required to implement companion Medicare Advantage Fully Integrated D-SNPs (FIDE SNPs) effective January 1, 2025.

Market

Members receive coverage through Banner-University Family Care, Mercy Care Plan, and UnitedHealthcare, depending on their geographic service area (GSA). MCOs will bid on all three GSAs and indicate their order of preference to be awarded. AHCCCS will not award the South GSA only or the North GSA only. At present, in the South region, Mercy Care Plan serves Pima County only. Under the new RFP, AHCCCS will not make an award specific to Pima County; rather the MCO will serve all seven counties within the South GSA.

Together, the plans cover 25,973 individuals (see below).

(United and Mercy administer DDD plans.)

Timeline

Intent to bid forms are due by August 31. Proposals are due October 2, and awards are expected to be announced December 13. As noted previously, implementation is scheduled to begin October 1, 2024.

RFP Link

Blog

Learning the invaluable lessons of value-based care at 2023 HMA conference

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If you search the term “value-based care” on the internet you will find over 2.5 million hits on that term alone. No one would disagree with the need to provide value to patients and purchasers, but how we define value differs based on where we sit. Value is paying for outcomes, not volume of services. Value is ensuring that patients get the right care at the right time. Value is ensuring that purchasers pay a reasonable cost for the highest possible quality. Value is ensuring that healthcare is provided equitably and sustainably. Implementing value is even trickier than defining it, given the complexity of who pays for care and the challenges of measuring the outcomes we seek to reward.  

From the top office of HHS to the back office of a health center and everywhere in between, HMA leaders have been part of our collective journey to value: advancing policy and regulatory change, calculating risk and setting prices, crafting alternative payment models, integrating social services and behavioral health, and coaching industry leaders to make important changes to their business models to adapt to a more sustainable approach to American healthcare. These experiences – both successes and challenges – provide a unique perspective from which to advise clients on transformation of healthcare.  

The HMA 2023 fall conference, scheduled for October 30-31, 2023, has thoughtfully curated several discussions to educate, enlighten and motivate attendees on industry standards and navigating the practicality of providing value in care, coverage, and patient experience in publicly funded healthcare:  

Leading the Charge on Value, Equity and Growth: The Future of Publicly Sponsored Healthcare: Discuss how these public programs came to be the industry standard bearers and what this shift means for outcomes, affordability, policy, and the overall direction of U.S. healthcare.  

Positive Change and the Growing Importance of Managed Care in Publicly Sponsored Healthcare: Discuss the future of publicly sponsored healthcare, outline promising initiatives aimed at improving coverage and care, and address key concerns over funding, policy, equity, and coordination between government, plans, providers, and members.  

The Future of Delivery Systems: Achieving Operational and Financial Sustainability: Discuss a wide range of practical approaches to prepare for the future, including managing cash flow, optimizing the workforce, developing long-term reimbursement plans, improving operational efficiency, and addressing changes in government policy.   

Real Talk from the Trenches of Value-based Payments: Learn about the advantages and pitfalls of value-based payments, with important insights from organizations that have made it work.  

Navigating Change in Medicare Advantage: A Roadmap for Success: Discuss what Medicare Advantage plans must do to meet the demanding, new requirements – all against a backdrop of continued efforts to improve equity, access, outcomes, and cost.   

In addition, a pre-conference workshop on behavioral health will be held the afternoon of October 29th, prior to the official start of the conference. This workshop will highlight the integral role of behavioral healthcare in improving patient outcomes across the continuum of publicly sponsored healthcare programs.  

We are excited to engage with industry experts throughout these discussions about value-based care and forge a better path forward toward a more sustainable and equitable system of care.  

Blog

CMS finalizes mix of reimbursement reductions and increases in 2024 hospital inpatient final rule

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This week, our In Focus section continues analysis and insights from Health Management Associates (HMA) and its affiliate The Moran Company on recent Medicare payment and policy developments. Today, we review the policy changes that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released August 1, 2023, for the fiscal year (FY) 2024 Medicare Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and Long-Term Acute Care Hospital (LTCH) final rule (CMS-1788-F).

This year’s IPPS final rule includes several important policy changes that will alter hospital margins and change administrative procedures beginning October 1, 2023. More specifically, the IPPS rule increases payments to hospitals, enhances the wage index policy for rural hospitals, reduces Medicare disproportionate share payments, and modifies the New Technology Add-on Payment (NTAP) program.

Key provisions of the FY 2024 Hospital IPPS and LTCH Final Rule

We highlight four policies that will significantly affect Medicare beneficiaries, hospitals, health systems, payers, and manufacturers:

  1. The annual inpatient payment update
  2. Medicare disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments
  3. Hospital wage index adjustments
  4. NTAP policy changes

Hospital market basket update and the inpatient standardized amount

CMS’s Medicare 2024 IPPS final rule will increase payments to acute care hospitals by an estimated $2.2 billion from 2023. The primary driver of this increase is CMS’s 3.1 percent increase in the annual update to inpatient operating payment rates. The update is the sum of the hospital market basket update of 3.3 percent and a statutorily required 0.2 percentage point reduction for productivity growth.

HMA/Moran analysis: Between the time CMS released the 2024 proposed IPPS rule and the final rule, the inpatient payment update for 2024 increased to 3.1 percent from 2.8 percent. This spike occurred because of the effects of an increase in estimated inflation on the cost of a standard basket of hospital goods (hospital market basket) throughout 2022 and 2023. Although economy-wide inflation slowed in mid-2023, inflation was higher in late 2022 and early 2023—the period in which the market basket is measured for the final rule.

For beneficiaries, increasing payment rates eventually will lead to a higher Medicare inpatient deductible and greater out-of-pocket costs for many other services. For hospitals and healthcare systems, payers, and manufacturers, a payment increase of 3.1 percent falls below economy-wide inflation (5−6 percent in recent months).

Despite the publicized 3.1 percent payment update for 2024, after factoring in various policy adjustments the actual change between 2023 and 2024 to inpatient payments per case will be roughly 2 percent. The primary reason per-case payments will increase only 2 percent is a budget-neutrality adjustment that CMS finalized for 2024 to account for hospital wage index reclassifications. This adjustment will reduce payments to all hospitals by more than 1 percent to neutralize the added program spending associated with payments to hospitals that choose to reclassify into higher paying wage index areas. The final rule states, “[T]he geographic reclassification budget neutrality adjustment is significantly larger than in prior years.”

Medicare Disproportionate Share Hospital Payments

CMS finalized two Medicare disproportionate share hospital (DSH)-related policies for 2024. First, DSH payments and Medicare uncompensated care payments combined will decrease in FY 2024 by approximately $957 million. Second, CMS finalized its proposal to limit the number of patient days included in the Medicare DSH calculation to only those days when the patient’s Medicaid Section 1115 Demonstration health insurance covers inpatient hospital services or the patient’s premium assistance program covers 100 percent of the premium cost for patients who buy health insurance that covers inpatient hospital services, if the patient is ineligible for Medicare Part A.

HMA/Moran analysis: CMS’s $957 million reduction in DSH and uncompensated care payments stems from the agency’s estimate of the percentage of individuals without insurance in the United States. Between the 2024 proposed and final rules, CMS estimates the percentage of individuals without insurance will decline from 9.3 percent to 7.7 percent in 2023 and from 9.2 percent to 8.5 percent in 2024. As a result, the pool of uncompensated care dollars available to hospitals for 2024 was reduced from roughly $6.7 billion to $5.9 billion.

CMS’s estimated decline in the rate of uninsured beneficiaries is somewhat surprising given the common projection that Medicaid enrollment will drop following the end of Medicaid’s COVID-19 related continuous coverage policy. However, HMA/Moran colleagues believe state-level Medicaid enrollment changes will vary in the year ahead. Consequently, hospitals located in states where levels of Medicaid enrollment are sustained will benefit from CMS’s uninsured rate estimates and hospitals in states where Medicaid enrollment drops will not.

With regard to the Section 1115 demonstration related DSH policy, hospitals located in states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Accountable Care Act and instead rely on Section 1115 Demonstrations to expand health coverage, are likely to receive lower DSH payments. In addition to the Medicare DSH payment adjustments, reductions in the Medicaid DSH program are scheduled to begin October 1, 2023. The $8 billion reduction in FY 2024 is the first time CMS has planned to make cuts in the program.

Hospital Wage Index Adjustments

CMS finalized two wage index policies for FY 2024. First, CMS will extend the low-wage index hospital policy, which boosts the wage index of hospitals in geographic areas with low wages relative to other areas. Second, CMS finalized a policy to begin including labor data from urban hospitals that choose to reclassify as providers in rural areas to maximize their payment into the calculation of rural wage index areas.

HMA/Moran analysis: These two wage index policies for FY 2024 will increase payment to rural hospitals. Under the first policy, hospitals with wage indexes below 0.8667 (the 25th percentile across all hospitals) will automatically receive an increase in their wage index and therefore their payment rates for inpatient cases. Under the second policy, the inclusion of labor data for geographically urban hospitals that choose to reclassify into rural wage index areas within the calculation of state-level rural wage indexes and the state-level rural floor will increase payments to rural hospitals in many states. The overall impact of both proposed wage index policy changes for FY 2024 will be an increase in inpatient payment rates for rural hospitals.

New Technology Add-On Payments (NTAP)

Citing the increased number of applications for NTAP over the past several years and noting the need for CMS staff to have time to review and analyze the applications, CMS finalized two changes to the NTAP application requirements. First, CMS will require that all applicants have a complete and active U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) market authorization request in place at the time of NTAP application submission, if not already FDA approved. The FDA’s acceptance letter will serve as proof of a full and complete application. In addition, CMS proposes to move the FDA approval deadline from July 1 to May 1, beginning with applications for FY 2025.

HMA/Moran analysis: The stated aim of these CMS policy changes is to “increase transparency, facilitate public input, and improve the review process.” As a result of these modifications, products will need to be on the market longer before the NTAP payment begins, and fewer products will be eligible for the three full years of NTAP payments. Taken together, hospitals will have a shorter NTAP payment window for most products. The further tightening of FDA application and approval requirements runs counter to the efforts of various stakeholders to establish more flexible or additional NTAP application windows.

HMA and The Moran Company collaborate to monitor legislative and regulatory developments in the inpatient hospital space and assess the impact of inpatient policy changes on the hospital sector. HMA’s Medicare experts interpret and model inpatient policy proposals and use these analyses to help clients develop their strategic plans and their comments on proposed regulations. Moran replicates the methodologies CMS uses in setting hospital payments and models alternative payment policies to help support stakeholder comment letters and strategies. Moran also assists clients with modeling diagnosis-related group reassignment requests and to support innovative NTAP applications.

For more information or questions about the policies described above, contact Zach Gaumer ([email protected]), Amy Bassano ([email protected]), Clare Mamerow ([email protected]), or Kevin Kirby ([email protected]).

Blog

Focus on equitable access at 2023 HMA conference

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Access to care is not as simple as obtaining an insurance card. Some people find access to care is limited by geography or distance, others are limited by their native language or cultural awareness. In other ways, care can be limited by who is in the insurance network. All of these inequities can cause gaps in care that undermine health outcomes. In a system that is increasingly paying for outcomes, elimination of inequities is a matter of financial performance, as well as a sign of clinical excellence. Finding and reducing inequities in access to care requires an operational commitment to change workflows, leverage technology, and train staff at all levels to align incentives and culture.

Providing equitable access to care is subject to ever-changing policy and regulatory requirements, and it is increasingly tied to funding, work force staffing and many other operational requirements. This topic will thread through several discussions and panels during the 2023 HMA fall conference with federal policy leaders, health system administrators, and other industry leaders all poised to address the pain points of achieving and maintaining equitable access.

Key sessions (full agenda here):

  • Leading the Charge on Value, Equity and Growth: The Future of Publicly Sponsored Health Care – A discussion on how these public programs came to be the industry standard bearers and what this shift means for outcomes, affordability, policy, and the overall direction of U.S. health care. (Monday 8:30am keynote by Alan Weil)
  • Understanding and Meeting New Health-Related Social Needs Requirements – An environmental overview, including a look at what’s driving these demands and how organizations are specifically working to address the new mandates. (Monday 1:30pm breakout session featuring Bryan Buckley of NCQA, Richard Ayoub of Project Angel Food, and Paul Leon of National Healthcare & Housing Advisors)
  • Practical Approaches to Ensuring Equity in Publicly Sponsored Healthcare Programs This session will provide practical approaches to addressing equity, including an overview of efforts by policymakers, health plans, and providers to make equity the central component of all initiatives to improve healthcare outcomes, access, and health-related social needs. (Tuesday 8:30am keynote by Karen Dale of Amerihealth Caritas)
  • Medicaid in a Post-Pandemic World: Challenges, Opportunities, and a Renewed Focus on Equity State Medicaid directors will provide a status report on all this and more, including a special emphasis on how equity plays into planning and policy decisions. (Tuesday 9:15am plenary featuring Jacey Cooper of the California Department of Health Care Services, Kelly Cunningham of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Drew Snyder of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, and Stacie Weeks of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services)

HMA consultants and our speakers look forward to engaging with participants as they delve into these topics to gain a better understanding of the gains we are making as industry leaders and where we still need to innovate. 

To learn more about our Equity work, please contact Leticia Reyes-Nash; to learn more about our Managed Care work, please contact Michael Engelhard or Patrick Tigue.

Register for the HMA 2023 fall conference
Blog

New CMS dementia care model emphasizes role of caregivers

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This week, our In Focus section reviews the new Guiding an Improved Dementia Experience (GUIDE) Model, announced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Center for Medicaid and Medicare Innovation (the Innovation Center) on July 31, 2023.

In addition to announcing the Innovation Center’s GUIDE Model, CMS released five final fiscal year (FY) 2024 payment rules this past week. Of note, these regulations set higher than anticipated reimbursement rates for many providers:

CMS also released the 2024 projected Medicare Part D premium and bid information, which may provide early indications on the effects of the Inflation Reduction Act’s drug pricing policies.

GUIDE Model: Parameters and Opportunities

President Biden signed an Executive Order in April 2023 on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers. The order directed the Innovation Center to develop a payment and delivery system model for dementia care. The program is intended to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia, reduce strain on unpaid caregivers, and help people remain in their homes and communities through improved care coordination and management, caregiver education and support, and respite services.

The announcement this week outlines the basic parameters of the model, which track with CMS’s focus on reducing health disparities, supporting innovation, and addressing affordability. CMS expects that the model’s additional support for caregivers will reduce federal spending on hospitalizations and post-acute care. Notably, CMS projects savings will come from reduced long-term nursing facility placement through a decrease in Medicaid spending on the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP). Helping Medicare enrollees stay in their homes may also lower state spending on long-term care.

Additional information, including the application to participate, will be available this fall. In the meantime, CMS is accepting letters of interest through September 15, 2023. The model will begin on July 1, 2024, and run for eight years.

HMA’s experts identified the below list of policies that will be important for provider organizations, caregivers, and other stakeholders considering participation in the model:

  • GUIDE Model participants will be Medicare Part B enrolled providers/suppliers, excluding durable medical equipment (DME) and laboratory suppliers, that are eligible to bill for Medicare physician fee schedule services and agree to meet the care delivery requirements.
  • The GUIDE Model comprises two tracks for participation—one for established programs and another for new programs.
    • Established programs must have an interdisciplinary care team, including a care navigator, use an electronic health record (EHR) platform that meets the standards for certified EHR technology, and meet other care delivery requirements as outlined in the request for applications.
  • If a participant cannot meet the GUIDE healthcare delivery requirements alone, CMS will allow the provider or supplier to partner with other Medicare organizations, to meet the mandates.
  • The model also includes policies designed to reduce disparities in dementia care. For example, CMS plans to conduct outreach with organizations that do not yet offer comprehensive dementia care or lack prior experience with alternative payment models such as safety net providers. Participants also will need to develop health equity plans, and a “health equity adjustment” will be made to payments for providers that serve disadvantaged beneficiaries.
    • CMS will support model participation for these organizations by providing technical assistance and learning support as well as a pre-implementation year to prepare for participation.
  • CMS will test an alternative payment methodology for participants that deliver key care management and coordination services to people with dementia and their family caregivers, including comprehensive, person-centered assessments and care plans; 24/7 access to a helpline; and caregiver support and education, such as training on how to best care for a relative with dementia. CMS clarifies that GUIDE is not a shared savings or total cost of care model and does not address coverage of novel Alzheimer’s drugs.
  • Participants will assign Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries, including people who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, living with dementia and their caregivers to a care navigator. This individual will help people access services and supports, including clinical services and non-clinical services such as meals and transportation through community-based organizations. Model participants will also help caregivers access respite services, which enable them to take temporary breaks from their caregiving responsibilities. Evidence demonstrates that respite enables caregivers to care for individuals with dementia at home for a longer period, thereby forestalling institutional placement.

CMS will host a webinar with more details about the model on Thursday, August 10, from 2:00−3:00 pm. The registration link is:  https://deloitte.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_DWQ6HhRLSOqfC2ydeBc8VA#/registration.

The HMA team will continue to evaluate the GUIDE model and other Innovation Center opportunities. If you have any questions about the model, contact Amy Bassano ([email protected]), Barry Jacobs ([email protected]), or Maddy Shea ([email protected]).

We also can assist with questions about any of the new regulations. Contact Zach Gaumer ([email protected]), Andrea Maresca ([email protected]), or Amy Bassano ([email protected])

We also would like to remind our readers that the HMA team hosted a webinar last week on the Medicare Behavioral Health proposed changes. We previously discussed those changes in the July 19, 2023 In Focus. If you missed the webinar, you can find the recording and slides on the HMA website.

Blog

CMS plans to improve incentives for Medicare providers in accountable care arrangements

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This week, our In Focus section is the second in a summer series of analysis and insights from Health Management Associates (HMA) on recent Medicare payment and policy developments. This week we dig deeper into the potential changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) that were included in the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule released earlier this month. Specifically, we highlight the impact these modifications could have on financial and operational decisions across the healthcare industry.

The proposed rule builds on the changes CMS finalized last year with the goal of increasing participation in the MSSP. The recommended changes are designed to appeal to more clinicians who treat a high proportion of underserved individuals. CMS estimates that the proposal will increase participation in MSSP by 10−20 percent. These changes are technical in nature and include:

  • Expanding the physician lookback window for beneficiary assignment (also known as the pre-step) for primary care service to 24 months from 12 months
  • Adding a third step to the claims-based beneficiary assignment methodology to recognize the role of nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), and clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) in delivering primary care services
  • Modifying the definition of “assignable beneficiary” to reflect the changes above

The overall impact of these modifications, which augment the existing methodology, is to increase the number of beneficiaries assigned to accountable care organizations (ACOs) under MSSP. More assignable beneficiaries could mean:

  • More ACOs will meet minimum beneficiary requirements.
  • Changes in assignable population may affect the hierarchical condition category (HCC) risk scores for the national assignable population, as well as the factors used to normalize risk scores and other risk adjustments.
  • Changes in population distribution within regions that result in adjustments to ACO market share, benchmark trends, and update factors.

For ACOs participating in multiple programs, expanded assignment rules for MSSP, combined with the MSSP superseding other programs in assignment, may have downstream effects on programs in terms of assignment and performance.

Following is a more detailed explanation of the proposed changes.

24-Month Lookback for Primary Care Services

Extending the lookback for primary care services with a physician to 24 months from 12 will allow providers to capture additional primary care services codes related to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) for benchmark and performance years. If the assignment window for a benchmark or performance year includes any month(s) during the PHE, then the additional primary care services codes must apply to all months in that window.

Three-Step Assignment Process

CMS plans to update its current two-step claims-based beneficiary assignment process to a three-step process, which would be effective for performance years beginning January 1, 2025. The proposed third step only would apply to beneficiaries who do not meet the pre-step requirement contingent upon whether they received at least one primary care service during the expanded window for assignment from an ACO-participating primary care or specialist physician or received at least one primary care service from a non-physician ACO healthcare professional during the 12-month assignment window.

Assignable Beneficiary Definition

The proposed rule includes updates to the definition of an assignable beneficiary to reflect the expanded 24-month lookback window for assignment and the new third step of a primary care service within the 12-month assignment window from a non-physician ACO professional (i.e., NP, PA, CNS).

The table below compares the current and proposed assignment processes.

Comparison of the Two- and Three-Step Processes

StepCurrent Two-Step Beneficiary Assignment ProcessProposed Three-Step Beneficiary Assignment Process
Pre-Step Requirement  to Identify Assignable BeneficiaryCMS identifies beneficiaries who received at least one primary care service from a primary care physician or a physician with a primary specialty designation participating in an ACO in the 12-month lookback window. CMS determines whether these individuals are eligible for assignment to an ACO.CMS identifies beneficiaries who received at least one primary care service from a primary care physician or a physician with a primary specialty designation participating in an ACO in the 24-month lookback window.
Step 1 Determine if beneficiaries received the plurality of their primary care services from primary care physicians, NPs, PAs, and CNSs in the participating ACO.No change
Step 2If not assigned in Step 1, determine whether beneficiaries received the plurality of primary care services from specialists in the participating ACO.No change
Step 3Not applicableFor beneficiaries not assigned through Steps 1 and 2:·         Determine if beneficiary received at least one primary care service with a non-physician ACO professional (e.g., NP, PA, or CNS) in the ACO during the applicable 12-month assignment window; AND·         Confirm beneficiary received at least one primary care service with a primary care physician or specialist who is an ACO professional in the ACO and who is a primary care physician or a non-physician ACO professional (i.e., NP, PA, CNS) during the applicable 12- month expanded window for assignment.

Financial Considerations

The proposed rule outlines that the expenditure lookback will remain 12 months. With a 24-month primary care service window and a 12-month expenditure lookback, ACO revenues could change. As a result, minimum savings rates could drop and the per-member per-month amount might change. In addition, the extended lookback could affect the regional average risk-adjusted spending, expenditure thresholds, and more.

Enhanced MSSP Track

CMS is seeking comment on a new track in MSSP with a higher level of risk and potential reward (e.g., somewhere between 80−100 percent). The purpose of the new MSSP track is to encourage ACOs that would not have otherwise participated in MSSP because of limitations on upside rewards. Higher potential rewards may also incentivize ACOs to develop new strategies, focus on specialty care integration, and reduce healthcare fragmentation to achieve savings.

CMS is seeking comment on the following:

  • Policy/model design elements that could be implemented so that CMS could offer a higher risk track without increasing program expenditures
  • Approaches to protect ACOs that serve high-risk beneficiaries from expenditure outliers and reduce incentives for ACOs to avoid high-risk beneficiaries
  • The impact that higher risk sharing could have on care delivery redesign, specialty integration, and ACO investment in healthcare providers and practices

The HMA Medicare and value-based care experts will continue to analyze these proposals alongside other policy and reimbursement changes that affect Medicare providers. We have the depth and breadth of expertise to assist with tailored analysis, to model policy impacts, and to support clients that intend to draft comment letters on this proposed rule. For more information or questions about these policies and other changes in the 2024 Medicare physician fee schedule proposed rule, contact Amy Bassano ([email protected]), Andrea Maresca ([email protected]), and Melissa Mannon ([email protected]).

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Medicare’s 2024 proposed payment rules offer a mix of opportunities and policy changes for physicians and hospitals

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This week’s In Focus section is the first in a summer series of analysis and insights from Health Management Associates (HMA) on recent Medicare payment and policy developments. Our series kicks off with a big-picture take on the slew of regulations the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released over the past two weeks. In future posts, we will dig deeper into several of the planned changes to highlight their potential impact on financial and operational decisions across the healthcare industry.

In July, CMS published three significant proposed Medicare rules for calendar year (CY) 2024: the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Proposed Rule, which includes proposed changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP); a proposed remedy to 340B-acquired drug payment policy for CY 2018−2022; and the Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment System (OPPS-ASC) Proposed Rule. Comments on these proposals are due to CMS in early September.

HMA’s experts note several trends across these three Medicare payment regulations:

  • Health equity remains a significant focus of CMS and the Biden Administration.
  • The agency is expanding its coverage of behavioral health services under Medicare and enhancing payment and access for these services.
  • The long-term focus of CMS continues to be the transition toward value-based care.
  • Medicare is incrementally moving toward supporting care that is delivered where and how Medicare beneficiaries prefer, for example moving away from reimbursing largely for face-to-face services and supporting reimbursement for telehealth services in more situations.
  • CMS is creating pathways for reimbursement for a broader range of clinicians and caregivers who are addressing Medicare beneficiaries’ care needs.
  • CMS continues its efforts to improve hospital price transparency with policies aimed at encouraging providers to publicly report data.

Medicare policy experts at HMA and is affiliate, The Moran Company, summarize details on these regulations below. These colleagues work collaboratively to monitor legislative and regulatory developments in the physician, 340B, and outpatient and ASC policy arenas and to assess the impact of changes in these reimbursement systems. HMA’s Medicare experts interpret and model policy proposals and use these analyses to assist clients in developing their strategic plans and comment on proposed regulations. Moran annually replicates the methodologies CMS uses to set payments and recommends alternative payment policies to help support its clients’ comments on various rules and to help clients understand the impact of specific policies. In addition, HMA’s other partner companies, including Wakely and Leavitt Partners, are monitoring these issues from their unique perspectives.

For more information or questions about the policies described below, please contact Amy Bassano ([email protected]), Zach Gaumer ([email protected]), Andrea Maresca ([email protected]), Kevin Kirby ([email protected]), or Rachel Kramer ([email protected]).

Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule (CY 2024)

The Medicare PFS establishes payments and policies for physicians and other healthcare professionals. By statute, PFS payment rates will decline by 1.25 percent from CY 2023 to 2024. However, when coupled with budget neutrality adjustments for other policy changes, the proposed PFS conversion factor will decline by 3.34 percent. The impact of this reduction will vary by physician specialty.

Behavioral Health Services: CMS implements provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2023, which would allow Medicare coverage and payment for the services of marriage and family therapists (MFTs) and mental health counselors (MHCs). CMS proposes to classify addiction counselors who meet certain requirements as MHCs. The rule outlines how these practitioners can enroll in Medicare and bill for services starting January 1, 2024. CMS is establishing new codes and payment for psychotherapy for crisis services and proposed refinements to Health and Behavior Assessment/Intervention codes to allow additional practitioners to bill for these services and to increase the valuations of timed behavioral health services. CMS seeks comment on ways to expand access to behavioral health services. CMS specifically is looking for information on digital therapies, remote physiologic monitoring, and remote therapeutic monitoring services.

Evaluation and Management (E/M) Office Visit Services: CMS proposed to implement separate payment for an add-on billing code to account for the additional resources associated with primary care or ongoing care related to a patient’s single serious or complex chronic condition. This complexity-based add-on code may be reported with all office and outpatient (O/O) and evaluation and management (E/M) visit level codes, and CMS estimates it will be reported for 38 percent of all O/O E/M visits initially. This estimate contributes to a significant portion of the relative value unit (RVU) budget-neutrality adjustment applied to the conversion factor. CMS also requests comments on evaluating E/M services more regularly and comprehensively including ways to improve data collection and methodologies to establish more timely improvements and accurate payments for E/M and other services.

Telehealth: CMS proposes several additions to the list of covered telehealth services and implements the various telehealth provisions included in CAA 2023, such as allowing the patient’s home to serve as an originating site. This provision would expand the scope of permitted telehealth providers and allow rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) to provide telehealth services until December 31, 2024. In addition, CMS proposes opportunities for teaching physicians and medical residents to continue to use telehealth services to meet the supervision requirements via telehealth.

Caregiver Training Services: CMS proposed a new payment for practitioners who train caregivers to implement a treatment plan and support patients with diseases like dementia.

Payment for Community Health Integration, Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Risk Assessment, and Principal Illness Navigation Provided by Social Workers, Community Health Workers, Care Navigators, and Peer Support Specialists: CMS is establishing opportunities for these services to be paid separately and account for the specific resources necessary to provide these services.

Dental Services: Although Medicare generally is prohibited from paying for dental services, CMS proposed to pay for certain dental services related to the treatment of head and neck cancers and when linked to other covered services used to treat cancer.

Discarded Drugs: The proposed rule continues the implementation process for a statutory requirement that drug and biological manufacturers refund amounts paid for discarded single-use prescription drug vials. CMS provides the list of products for which refunds would have been due in 2021, and the number of products included is expected to increase over time.

340B and Outpatient Offset Proposed Rule

In the 340B proposed rule, CMS proposed retrospective payments to 340B hospitals for incorrect payments made in CYs 2018−2022. After extensive litigation and a Supreme Court ruling, CMS will return to paying 340B hospitals for drugs using the formula of the average sales price (ASP) +6 percent, rather than the formula of the ASP −22.5 percent. In this proposed rule, CMS proposes to correct past underpayments to 340B hospitals by making lump sum payments to affected 340B hospitals. These retrospective payments are estimated to amount to $9 billion, and we anticipate payments will be made to hospitals at the beginning of CY 2024.

In addition, CMS proposed a corresponding prospectively budget neutrality offset to the 340B spending increase that will reduce hospital outpatient payments for non-drug outpatient services by 0.5 percent each year beginning in 2025. Specifically, CMS proposes to maintain this reduction until $7.8 billion in spending has been offset, which it estimates will take 16 years. The impact of this policy on the hospital industry will be significant and will create groups of winners and losers. Winners will include 340B hospitals, despite the fact that the outpatient offset will also affect their payment rates. Losers will include non-340B hospitals, particularly if their service mix is heavily focused on outpatient surgical services. Overall, the industry will observe a reduction in outpatient spending of roughly $300 million to $600 million per year for each of the 16 years the policy is in place.

Hospital Outpatient Proposed Rule (CY 2024)

Under the OPPS proposed rule, CMS would update payments for outpatient and ASC services by 2.8 percent in CY 2024 from CY 2023. This change will increase payments for hospital outpatient services by $1.9 billion and for ASC services by $170 million. In addition, if the 340B proposal is finalized, the 0.5 percent payment offset would not reduce CY 2024 OPPS payment rates but would begin reducing outpatient payments in CY 2025.

Behavioral Health: CMS proposes to establish the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for behavioral health services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. The IOP proposal addresses one of the main gaps in behavioral health coverage in Medicare and promotes access to related services. CMS will define IOP as a distinct outpatient program of psychiatric services provided to individuals with acute mental illness or substance use disorder. Services could be provided at hospital outpatient departments, community mental health centers, FQHCs, and RHCs. Further, the agency proposed to establish two IOP service codes for each provider type—one for days with three services per day and another with four or more services per day.

Price Transparency: CMS proposes to increase the rigidity of its price transparency reporting program in an effort to improve hospital industry compliance with the reporting of hospital charge data to the public.

The HMA Medicare team and Moran Company reimbursement experts will continue to analyze these proposal alongside other policy and reimbursement changes that affect Medicare providers. We have the depth and breadth of expertise to assist with tailored analysis, to model policy impacts, and to support clients that intend to draft comment letters on this proposed rule.

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CMS releases report on nonemergency medical transportation in Medicaid

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This week, our In Focus section reviews the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) report to Congress on Non-emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) in Medicaid, released June 20, 2023. CMS found that approximately 3 million to 4 million Medicaid beneficiaries used NEMT services annually between 2018 and 2021 and made recommendations related to Medicaid coverage of NEMT for medically necessary services.

Background

NEMT includes transportation services not limited to public transport, taxis, personal vehicle transport, non-emergency ambulances, air transport, and transportation network companies. Medicaid, unlike private insurers and Medicare, covers NEMT for any covered medical service for beneficiaries with an unmet transportation need. NEMT program administration varies from state to state and can be on a fee-for-service basis, carved out with third-party transportation brokers, or carved into the Medicaid risk-based managed care contracts. Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which made NEMT a statutory requirement, HHS must conduct and submit an analysis of nationwide Medicaid NEMT services to Congress. An initial report was submitted in June 2022.

Table 1. NEMT Service Delivery Models by State, 2018−2021

CMS conducted the analysis using Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS) data for calendar years 2018−2021. The analysis covered the number and percentage of Medicaid beneficiaries using NEMT, the average number of NEMT ride days, the types of medical services beneficiaries accessed when using NEMT, monthly trends in use of NEMT versus telehealth services before and during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), and a comparison of the volume of NEMT services used by delivery model and state.

The T-MSIS data has some limitations and may not capture all Medicaid NEMT provided to beneficiaries due to differences in billing practices across states and providers. For example, if states claim certain medical service expenditures as administrative expenditures, T-MSIS will not capture it. Further, the number of ride days undercounts the total number of NEMT rides, as beneficiaries may receive multiple NEMT rides in a day. Because of these and other limitations, the data represents a subset of the NEMT that the Medicaid program covers.

Findings

Approximately 3−4 million Medicaid beneficiaries used NEMT annually in 2018−2021, representing 4−5 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries. Alaska, Minnesota, Arizona, Maine, and Wisconsin had the highest percentage of Medicaid beneficiaries who used NEMT, with up to nearly 11 percent in Alaska in 2021.

States that used a capitated broker model to deliver NEMT saw the highest use of these services. However, on average, states that used in-house NEMT delivery model claimed a relatively high percentage of NEMT expenditures as administrative expenditures, and NEMT administrative expenditures generally are not captured in the T-MSIS data.

Figure 1. Number of NEMT Ride Days per 10,000 Beneficiaries, by Delivery Model and Beneficiary Subgroup, 2021

Source: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Medicaid enrollees with the highest NEMT usage rates included individuals in Money Follows the Person, receiving Section 1915c home- and community-based services, dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, and aging adults and people with disabilities. In addition, Medicaid members with certain physical and mental health conditions and those with a substance use disorder had higher rates of usage compared with the average Medicaid members. Medicaid enrollees in remote areas also used NEMT at the highest rates.

During the COVID-19 PHE, rates of NEMT dropped from 3.9 million beneficiaries, or 5 percent of all Medicaid members in 2019, to 3.5 million (4 percent) in 2020 and 3.3 million (4 percent) in 2021. In 2019−2020, the total number of annual NEMT ride days dropped by 37 percent, from 81.3 million to 53.1 million, but increased by more than 4 percent (to 55.5 million) in 2021. On average, the monthly number of NEMT ride days in 2021 remained about 30 percent below pre-PHE levels, and the number of beneficiaries using NEMT remained 23 percent below pre-PHE levels. The COVID-19 PHE caused telehealth to sharply increase. Throughout the PHE, telehealth was used more frequently than NEMT to access certain services.

Recommendations

CMS found that public transit was rarely used for NEMT, even though more than one-third of beneficiaries live in large, urban areas. In the report, CMS recommends that states should find opportunities to improve operations between NEMT and public transit networks to better coordinate services for beneficiaries.

CMS also recommends that states further examine the role of NEMT in improving the use of timely preventive care. Beneficiaries used NEMT to access preventive services at the highest rate of all service types examined. The analysis found some evidence that use of NEMT increases access to preventive services and is cost-effective, implying that increasing the uptake of NEMT may confer cost savings to states and the federal government.

Finally, CMS recommends that states increase awareness of the NEMT benefit. Medicaid beneficiaries’ knowledge of the benefit is low. CMS urges states to work with health plans and providers to share information with beneficiaries about the availability of NEMT.

Link to report

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The CMS managed care proposed rule: three implications for local and regional MCOs

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Previously, HMA reviewed the provisions of the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) managed care access, finance, and quality proposed rule published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on May 3, 2023. CMS is accepting comments on the proposed rule through July 3, 2023. While the proposed rule, if finalized as put forward, will have a significant impact across Medicaid stakeholders including enrollees, managed care organizations (MCOs), providers, and state Medicaid agencies, this blog post outlines three specific aspects of the proposed the rule and their implications for a subset of MCOs: regional and local MCOs.

Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) Standards

In the proposed rule, CMS outlines three areas for revisions to its existing MLR standards which require MCOs to annually submit MLR reports to states and require states, in turn, to annually provide a summary of those reports to CMS. An MLR is calculated by adding the expenditures for incurred claims to the expenditures for activities that improve health care quality and fraud prevention activities (the numerator) and dividing this by adjusted premium revenue (the denominator). The three areas where CMS proposes revisions include: (1) requirements for clinical or quality improvement standards for provider incentive arrangements, (2) prohibited administrative costs in quality improvement activity (QIA) reporting, and (3) additional requirements for expense allocation methodology reporting.

Related to provider incentive arrangements (which are considered part of incurred claims), CMS proposes to require that contracts between MCOs and providers: (1) have a defined performance period that can be tied to the applicable MLR reporting period(s), (2) include well-defined quality improvement or performance metrics that the provider must meet to receive the incentive payment, and (3) specify a dollar amount that can be clearly linked to successful completion of these metrics as well as a date of payment. Furthermore, MCOs would be required to maintain documentation to support these arrangements and cannot rely upon attestations as documentation of compliance.

Related to QIA reporting, CMS proposes to explicitly prohibit MCOs from including indirect or overhead expenses when reporting QIA costs in the MLR. CMS notes that today, for example, expenditures for facility maintenance, marketing, or utilities may be included in the MLR even though such expenses do not directly improve health care quality. From the perspective of CMS, the inclusion of such expenditures in the MLR numerator may be resulting an inflated MLRs that then provide a distorted view of MCO performance.

Related to expense allocating reporting, CMS proposes to add requirements regarding how MCOs can allocate expenses for the purpose of calculating the MLR. Specifically, MCOs would need to describe in their methodology a detailed description of the methods used to allocate expenses, including incurred claims, quality improvement expenses, federal and state taxes and licensing or regulatory fees, and other non-claims costs. The goal of requiring this additional detail is to give state Medicaid agencies the ability to assess whether MLRs are accurately represented as a result of the methodology employed by an MCO to allocate expenses across lines of business (e.g., Marketplace, Medicaid, and Medicare).

For local and regional MCOs, the changes to MLR standards proposed by CMS will require meaningful efforts to ensure compliance. Provider incentive arrangements, most expansively, may need to be renegotiated to conform to the requirements and, at a minimum, may need to be documented in a more robust fashion to ensure evidence of compliance can be furnished upon request. The impact of QIA expenditures that are no longer able to be included in the MLR numerator will need to be modeled to ensure that a resulting failure to meet any minimum MLR requirements does not occur and, if this is projected to occur, a strategy will need to be developed and executed to ensure it does not. Expense allocation methodologies will need to be documented more extensively and evaluated for reasonability to ensure that they can withstand regulatory scrutiny when additional detail is provided to state Medicaid agencies.

Medicaid and CHIP Quality Rating System (MAC QRS)

In the proposed rule, CMS outlines a MAC QRS framework that includes: (1) mandatory quality measures, (2) a quality rating methodology, and (3) a mandatory website display format. State Medicaid agencies and MCOs will be required to adopt and implement the MAC QRS framework developed by CMS or adopt and implement an alternative managed care quality rating system. CMS will update the mandatory measure set at least every other year. Measures will have public notice through a call letter (or similar guidance) on any planned modifications with measures being based on: (1) value in choosing an MCO, (2) alignment with other CMS programs, (3) the relationship to enrollee experience, access, health outcomes, quality of care, MCO administration, or health equity, (4) MCO performance, (5) data availability, and (6) scientific acceptability.

State Medicaid agencies will be required to collect from MCOs the data necessary to calculate ratings for each measure and ensure that all data collected are validated. Additionally, state Medicaid agencies must calculate each measure and issue ratings to each MCO for each measure. Finally, the mandatory state website will be required to contain the following elements: (1) clear information that is understandable and usable for navigating the website itself, (2) interactive features that allow users to tailor specific information, such as formulary, provider directory, and ratings based on their entered data, (3) standardized information so that users can compare MCOs, (4) information that promotes beneficiary understanding of and trust in the displayed ratings, such as data collection timeframes and validation confirmation, and (5) access to Medicaid and CHIP enrollment and eligibility information, either directly on the website or through external resources.

For local and regional MCOs, the MAC QRS framework proposed by CMS will require assessing their capability to produce the mandated data upon request by state Medicaid agencies. It will also then require ensuring that all mandated data is available to be provided on an annual basis. To the extent possible, at the appropriate time, assessing baseline performance on measures and proactively developing and implementing strategies to improve performance will be prudent. Assessing the impact of the greater transparency around quality performance that the proposed MAC QRS will bring in order to understand the potential impact on competitive position will also be important.

Network Adequacy Requirements

In the proposed rule, CMS outlines important network adequacy requirements meant to further timely access to care for Medicaid and CHIP managed care enrollees. Two of these are focused upon here: (1) appointment wait time standards and (2) secret shopper surveys. Other policies to enhance access are also included in the proposed rule including, for example, a requirement that state Medicaid agencies conduct an annual enrollee experience for each MCO.

For appointment wait time standards, CMS proposes that state Medicaid agencies develop and enforce wait time standards for routine appointments for four types of services: (1) outpatient mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) for adults and children, (2) primary care for adults and children, (3) obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN), and (4) an additional service type determined by the state Medicaid agencies in an evidence-based manner (in addition to the previous three noted). The maximum wait times must be no longer than 10 business days for routine outpatient mental health and SUD appointments and no longer than 15 business days for routine primary care and OB/GYN appointments. State Medicaid agencies could impose stricter wait time standards but not more lax ones. The wait time standard for the fourth service type selected by state Medicaid agencies will be determined at the state level.

For secret shopper surveys, state Medicaid agencies will be required to utilize an independent entity to conduct annual secret shopper surveys to validate MCO compliance with appointment wait time standards and the accuracy of provider directories to identify errors as well as providers that do not offer appointments. For an MCO to be compliant with the wait time standards, as assessed through the secret shopper surveys, it would need to demonstrate a rate of appointment availability that meets the wait time standards at least 90% of the time. State Medicaid agencies would be required to develop remedy plans when MCO compliance issues are identified which designate the party responsible for taking action, outline the appropriate steps to be taken to address the issue, and document the intended implementation timeline.

For local and regional MCOs, the wait time standards and secret shopper surveys present opportunities to prepare to ensure compliance and to collaborate with state Medicaid agencies. For preparation, undertaking secret shopper surveys ahead of implementation to determine the current performance relative to maximum wait times may be advisable. Additionally, there is an opportunity to collaborate with state Medicaid agencies regarding the selection of the fourth service type for which wait time standards will be established.

For More Information

If you have questions about how HMA can support your efforts related to the proposed rule’s implications for local and regional MCOs, please contact Michael Engelhard, managing director, Patrick Tigue, managing director, or Sarah Owens, principal.