Developing a population health management program: Considerations for population segmentation

Predictive analytics can improve medical outcomes by identifying patients needing medical interventions. Population segmentation is a common method used to identify such patients. Individuals are grouped into cohorts to help improve the quality of their care. In this paper, Milliman’s Jordan Paulus and Nick Creten explore four common methods for population segmentation: cost cohort segmentation, condition cohort segmentation, utilization cohort segmentation, and social cohort segmentation.

Encounter data standards: Implications for state Medicaid agencies and managed care entities from final Medicaid managed care rule

In this article, Milliman consultants Jeremy Cunningham, Maureen Tressel Lewis, and Paul Houchens summarize new regulatory requirements for Medicaid encounter data from the final managed care rule. The authors also identify best practices for state Medicaid agencies and managed care entities in the development and submission of encounter data. Additionally, they discuss how improvements to the quality of Medicaid managed care encounter data may change the industry.

Milliman releases annual analysis of Medicaid managed care financial results

Milliman today announced the availability of its annual research into the financial results associated with Medicaid managed care plans. These plans have become increasingly popular, which is due to the Medicaid expansion provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the continued growth of the managed care delivery system within Medicaid. This information is especially valuable now, with the recent release of the Medicaid and CHIP Managed Care Final Rule (CMS-2390-F) by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS regulations require reporting and monitoring of Medicaid managed care medical loss ratios, and may be useful as the industry contemplates the financial consequences of the new regulation.

We are excited about this year’s iteration of the report because of its relevance with the recently finalized Medicaid managed care rule published by CMS. This is an area of intense focus for the industry as we look to quantify the various impacts of the new regulation. This report has become an industry standard, and it allows us to offer analysis as Medicaid continues to evolve.

Key findings from the analysis include:
• Average profit increased from 2.1% in calendar year (CY) 2014 to 2.6% for CY 2015
• Revenue captured by the study increased by 30%
• The medical loss ratio (MLR), using the CMS definition, was 90.2% in CY 2015, more than 5% higher than the minimum 85%

The financial results report is now in its eighth year of publication and is widely cited by the industry. An accompanying report related to Medicaid administrative costs is anticipated to follow the release of this report.

To see the Medicaid financial results report, click here.

What can be done to slow healthcare inflation?

Weltz-ScottMany initiatives have been put forth to limit the rise of healthcare costs. Here I discuss some of those initiatives while using key figures from the 2016 Milliman Medical Index (MMI) as a backdrop to help better understand how each one fits into the complicated puzzle of managing healthcare costs while delivering high-quality care for the MMI’s family of four.

With the family of four spending over $11,000 between its payroll deduction for health insurance and average out-of-pocket expenses at the point of care, it is easy to see why consumers are hungry for actionable information to inform healthcare purchasing decisions. However, it is not as simple as supplying a price list of medical services, given the variations in payment and treatment patterns. In addition, as pointed out earlier, the people who consume most healthcare dollars reach their out-of-pocket maximums and thus have little financial incentive to be savvy consumers. As a result, some other concepts are gaining traction to address these issues.

Value-based insurance (VBI)
What is it? This is a term that means different things to different people. In health insurance, it usually refers to benefit plan designs that encourage behavior that keeps patients healthy. VBI includes things like reducing deductibles or copays for patients who follow a defined plan of care or have a certain disease. Sometimes VBI simply revolves around granting lower employee contribution rates for those who join an employer’s wellness plan.

Opportunities and challenges. Some VBI initiatives are focused on that small portion of the population driving the majority of the cost. Incentives are often put in place to encourage changes in consumer behavior, such as $0 copays for prescriptions that treat a chronic condition. In turn, the expectation is that an investment like this will result in better management of conditions, fewer inpatient admissions or emergency room (ER) visits, lower costs, and better health outcomes. However, these programs must be carefully designed to avoid simply increasing costs. The hope is that proactively taking these actions will curb long-term trends by improving treatment and limiting the onset of preventable conditions.

MMI2016_figure4Defined contribution
What is it? Employers typically subsidize the cost of coverage. As Figure 4 from the MMI shows, employers are subsidizing approximately 57% of the cost for the family of four. While the MMI focuses on typical PPO coverage, many employers offer other plans such as high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) or sometimes health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Offering multiple benefit plan choices creates financial risks for employers, varying with how much they subsidize each plan and the number of employees that enroll in each plan. To mitigate this risk, many employers are defining their subsidies via a defined contribution to the plan. Then employees simply pay the difference between the premium of their chosen plans and the employer’s defined contribution.

Opportunities and challenges. Offering multiple health plan options can encourage employees to enroll in plans that incentivize appropriate consumption of healthcare services. However, these plan options can be less attractive to many employees. In addition, employers know all too well that offering more choices brings with it more costs from administrative complexities and adverse selection as employees choose the plans that minimize their own costs (while increasing the employer’s costs). These challenges are getting more attention in the market as employers begin to question the value proposition of private exchanges, which often use defined contribution approaches. Until such challenges are addressed, it is difficult to say whether the movement to defined contribution will meaningfully reduce costs or simply continue cost shifting to employees. Although Figure 5 from the MMI only shows five years of changes, 2016 actually marks the sixth consecutive year of such cost shifting, whereby employees’ share of the MMI has increased.


Continue reading

Institution for Mental Disease (IMD) as an “in lieu of” service

Federal financial participation (FFP) is not available for Medicaid services for individuals between the ages of 21 and 64 who are patients in an Institution for Mental Disease (IMD). This IMD exclusion is a long-standing component of Title XIX (Grants to States for Medical Assistance Programs) of the Social Security Act (Title XIX), which has recently come under scrutiny because of the combination of inpatient psychiatric capacity constraints and rapid enrollment growth of the Medicaid population.

The final Medicaid managed care regulations clarify the use of IMDs as an “in lieu of” service. In the near term, states will need to carefully weigh their options based on their specific needs for inpatient psychiatric and subacute psychiatric capacity. The risk is that adding too much inpatient capacity could induce utilization and drive members away from community-based alternatives. The managed care rule also contains some rate-setting differences for IMDs as an “in lieu of” service. Beyond the impact of the final rule, IMDs will continue to be a topic of interest to state policy makers as they bolster the continuum of behavioral health and substance use disorder services.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has had a policy in place since Medicaid began that does not provide FFP for any services for a member between the ages of 21 and 64 either inside or outside an IMD while that member is a patient in an IMD. This law, generally termed the “IMD exclusion,” has evolved over time but has largely remained unchanged. Outside of this age band, full FFP is provided as long as the service is included in the state plan for the over-65 population. The under-21 population is covered as an Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) service at the state’s regular match rate. The IMD exclusion applies to fee-for-service and managed care delivery systems.

This setting exclusion is defined in the Medicaid statute under 1905(a)(29). When Title XIX was passed by Congress in 1965, the treatment of mental illness was primarily performed in an institutional setting. States built and operated large mental institutions to house and feed people with mental illness. The IMD exclusion was included to ensure states would continue to be responsible for the costs of those large hospitals. Over time, a few limited mechanisms have been developed to pull down FFP for IMD utilization within the exclusion age corridor of 21 to 64 years of age. In some cases, states may have already utilized IMDs as an “in lieu of” service. Milliman’s Mat DeLillo provides  more perspective in this article.

Regulatory roundup

More healthcare-related regulatory news for plan sponsors, including links to detailed information.

CMS issues unnumbered frequently asked question on essential health benefits package
The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a new frequently asked question related to whether it is a violation of the essential health benefits package if an issuer imposes a waiting period before an enrollee can access a covered benefit.

For more information, click here.

Updated AIR submission composition and reference guide
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released version 4.4 of “The AIR Submission Composition and Reference Guide.”

To download the guide, click here.

More than $25,000?! How did we get here?

Hart, SueThe cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four covered by an employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) plan is now $25,826, according to the 2016 Milliman Medical Index (MMI). One question that comes to mind is “how did we get here?” The MMI excerpt below highlights an illustrative company with four employees to explain how healthcare costs may be spread across an employer’s population.


In the example in Figure 3, our employer pays the same amount for each family, regardless of the family’s healthcare costs. Each employee also pays the same for his or her family in the form of payroll deduction. The averages paid by the employer and employee for all families are consistent with the components of the MMI shown in Figure 4 (see study); however, each family has very different healthcare expenditures.

• Family 1 uses limited health services—some preventive visits for which they pay nothing out-of-pocket and copays for prescription drugs and office visits.
• The second family is fairly healthy as well, with similar services, but their oldest child had a single visit to the emergency room (ER) and follow-up visits that cost $6,000, of which the family paid $964 out-of-pocket.
• Family 3 welcomed a new baby. Maternity care, a hospital stay, and newborn visits cost $22,000, of which the family’s out-of-pocket cost was $5,000.
• Last is Family 4: The father has a chronic condition that put him in the hospital once, along with multiple visits to the ER and physicians, and multiple prescriptions. The mother also has health issues and the resultant ongoing costs, including specialty drugs. The children have only routine healthcare services. The family’s costs were capped by an out-of-pocket limit of $11,000, but total expenditures were nearly $75,000.

On average, the total cost of care for all four of the example families is $25,826, which equals the 2016 MMI. And yet the variation among family costs is striking, with the most costly being 74 times the least costly. The range of amounts paid by the family through contributions to care and out-of-pocket costs is significantly tighter, with Family 1 paying about $7,000 and Family 4 paying about 2½ times that, at nearly $18,000. This lower difference in total costs among the four families is driven by the employee’s payroll deduction being based on the average cost of care for a family of four, along with plan design features that limit the family’s out-of-pocket payments.

While the above is only an illustration, it demonstrates the range of healthcare costs that different families may experience, and how those costs may be spread across the employer’s population. It also shows that employee financial incentives to consume healthcare efficiently are limited, which contributes to the rising costs. First, the majority of the healthcare cost is often paid by the employer rather than the employee. Second, first-dollar coverage and fixed-dollar copays insulate patients from the true cost of their care. For example, although patients might pay $150 to visit the ER, which could seem like a lot of money, they are often unaware that the ER’s total charges could be several thousand dollars. And last, those with more extensive health issues may hit their out-of-pocket maximums and have limited incentives to avoid additional costs.

Webinar: Medicaid encounter data standards

Join Milliman’s Jeremy Cunningham, Maureen Tressel Lewis, and Paul Houchens for the webinar “Medicaid encounter data standards” on Wednesday, June 1, at 12 pm EST. They will provide an overview of encounter data standards and the implications of the final Medicaid managed care rule for state Medicaid agencies and managed care entities. The webinar follows a paper published recently about encounter data standards. To register, click here.