Milliman risk score trend analysis consistent with Advanced Notice

The 2.1% Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) 2016 medical risk score trend was the primary driver behind the increase in the Part C FFS normalization factor proposed in the 2018 Advance Notice.

Milliman’s Darcy Allen, Karin Cross, and Robert Pipich conducted a risk score trend analysis, which is consistent with the trend in the Advance Notice. They also identified the six Hierarchical Condition Category (HCC) contributors shown in Figure 2 as the key drivers of the 2016 risk score trend. For more perspective, read their article “What’s driving the high risk score trend in the 2018 Advance Notice?

New “three Rs” and ACA marketplace considerations

Commercial health issuers should develop contingency plans as legislative proposals designed to modify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) emerge. While the direction of the ACA marketplace is uncertain now, health plans can proactively evaluate the risks and rewards of various contingency plans to act quickly once the new market environment becomes clear.

Milliman actuaries Amy Giese and Alison Fasching have authored a new paper offering issuers considerations for commercial contingency planning. In the paper, the authors explore the following new “three Rs” to mitigate risk in the current environment:

Remain in the market
Refile in the summer if changes occur after products are initially filed
Remove products from the market

To learn more about the developing healthcare landscape in the United States, follow Milliman Healthcare reform 2.0.

Three-pillar strategy for value-based contracting

Healthcare providers can improve their financial performance under value-based contracts by implementing an effective contracting strategy. Milliman consultants David Williams, David Liner, and Colleen Norris discuss how providers can accomplish that by prioritizing and measuring operational and contractual elements against three core pillars: transparency, stability, and control. Here is an excerpt from their article “Building a successful value-based payer contracting strategy.”

Providers prioritize each pillar and attribute to create weights for each cell. Contractual elements are then evaluated against those pillars to produce a score for each cell. This can be either a subjective evaluation or a more rigorous analytic evaluation depending on the nature of the element. The weighted scores can be used to prioritize areas of administrative concentration and to compare payer contracts on a similar basis. This prioritization is a critical step to a successful contracting evaluation process….

…The exercise of scoring the grid identifies high-risk elements and compares contract structures from different payers that require revisions. When performed rigorously, this process brings focus that allows management to spend more time on contracts with the greatest risk and potential for improvement. Applying each pillar to specific payer contract elements identifies specific risks and creates areas of focus for providers during negotiation. However, this analysis alone does not enable providers to easily compare value-based contracts in their entirety.

The complex evaluation process is illustrated below in a simplified form. The intent of this illustration is to highlight important aspects of the decision-making process required to effectively manage complex payer relationships.

First, the contract is scored for each pillar and element cell in the scoring grid. Each contract is evaluated separately and may contain different elements. The provider may require independent help.

Second, the provider weights each cell in the grid based on priorities. These weights would likely be consistent across contracts. The provider may counsel with outside help to prioritize, but ultimately will be responsible for the focus of their efforts.

Finally, the total score is calculated by applying weights in each cell based on prioritization of the contracting elements. Figure 2 illustrates this contract-scoring approach.

Looking at cancer trends through Milliman UK Health Cost Guidelines

Milliman’s UK Health Cost Guidelines™ (HCGs) is a tool for modelling health costs and utilisation from a payer perspective to provide a consistent way to price and analyse claims experience. The 2016 Milliman UK HCGs cover a significant proportion of the private medical insurance (PMI) market, comprising base tables for each sector of the market: corporate, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the individual market.

Further analytics include looking at cancer trends and cancer-specific costs by service lines. In this article, Milliman’s Joanne Buckle, Neha Taneja, and Natasha Singhal provide an introduction to the HCGs. They also provide perspective on their HCGs analysis, focusing primarily on cancer-related research and future projections in cancer trends.

Vetting PBM contract provisions may lower pharmacy plan costs

Prescription drug plan sponsors must consistently evaluate and update their pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) contracts to control costs. In their article “Medicare Part D PBM contracting strategy,” Milliman actuaries Michael Polakowski, Nicholas Johnson, and Todd Wanta highlight numerous contract provisions that plan sponsors should examine and renegotiate to reduce pharmacy expenses.

Here’s an excerpt:

As contracting has become more complex, the following contract provisions are becoming more common as plan sponsors look to reduce their pharmacy expenses.

Price protection. In the current environment of high-cost trends for brand-name drugs, price protection can offer more inflation protection than discount guarantees. Any price increases above a predefined threshold are paid back to the PBM by the manufacturer and considered rebates by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Plan sponsors should carefully consider how price protection can affect Medicare bids and end-of-year settlements.
Membership. More favorable dispensing fees, discounts, and/or rebates may be achieved for plan sponsors with higher membership counts. Improved contracting levels are specified directly in the PBM contract.
Discount/rebate guarantees. Discount and rebate guarantees may be presented in many different forms, e.g., rebates per brand-name script or on a per member per month (PMPM) basis, or discounts off AWP or the maximum allowable cost (MAC) list. Rebate guarantees may exclude certain drugs. At a minimum, plan sponsors should ensure the targets are clearly understood and auditable. Plan sponsors should be wary of proprietary definitions when industry definitions are available for reference. Plan sponsors should also ensure that reimbursement mechanisms are in place if targets are not achieved.
Rebate maximization. Because of the structure of the Part D benefit, rebates can be a more effective way to reduce Medicare bids than discounts. Over the last few years (and with the increasing cost of specialty drugs), plan sponsors have increasingly negotiated with PBMs to maximize rebates rather than discounts. The financial incentives for this approach are discussed by Milliman consultants Adam Barnhart and Jason Gomberg in a recent article for the AIDS Institute, “Financial Incentives in Medicare Part D.”1
Multi-year agreements. Some PBMs have been willing to provide discount or rebate improvements over time if plan sponsors commit to multi-year contracts. Plan sponsors should be sure to verify that the improvements are contractually guaranteed and meet or beat market-wide improvements. Even multi-year discounts should have market check provisions to allow plan sponsors the ability to receive better terms when the market changes.

MACRA considerations for Medicare Advantage plans

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) makes significant changes to the Medicare payment system by introducing a quality-based payment model. While MACRA primarily affects Part B clinicians, there are numerous implications that Medicare Advantage (MA) plans should consider. A strategic approach can help MA plans understand and respond to the legislation.

In the article “MACRA and Medicare Advantage plans: Synergies and potential opportunities,” Milliman actuaries explore the answers to the following questions:

• How will MACRA affect MA plans’ provider payments?
• What synergies exist between MACRA’s quality scoring and the MA Stars quality program?
• How can MA plans help providers achieve Qualifying Participant (QP) status?
• What incentives exist under MACRA for providers to improve risk score coding?
• How are MA plans in the market responding to MACRA?

Read Milliman’s “MACRA: The series” to learn how the legislation will affect providers, alternative payment models, and health plans