Category Archives: Medicare

Exploring the nuances of MACRA

The major terms and conditions of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) are becoming more well-known during the first performance year, but some aspects of the new physician payment system law still can be elusive for physician practices and other healthcare organizations. In this article, Milliman’s Pamela Pelizzari discusses details that may be overlooked regarding participation in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System track and the advanced alternative payment model track of MACRA.

This article was published by the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

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?

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

Yearly shared-risk arrangement check-up considerations

Providers should review contract provisions with Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revenue adjustments yearly to understand the financial implications of their shared-risk arrangements. Milliman’s Simon Moody and Kim Hiemenz offer perspective in their article “Providers should do annual check-ups on Medicare Advantage risk-sharing contracts.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Many providers enter into shared-risk arrangements with MAOs. The most common method used in MA shared-risk arrangements is a medical loss ratio (MLR) target, i.e., claims divided by revenue. This type of arrangement is often referred to as a “Percentage of Premium.” Revenue includes both member premium and CMS revenue. This approach is often used for MA risk deals because it aligns the carrier’s and provider’s incentives, particularly the incentive to ensure accurate coding. An MAO’s revenue from CMS is directly tied to its risk score; that is, if an MAO’s risk score improves, then its revenue increases. All else equal, as revenue improves, the medical loss ratio also improves. Thus, MA coding improvement creates a win-win situation for both plan and provider in MLR target arrangements.

Significant revenue components are outside the control of MAOs

Cost targets based on revenue introduce additional considerations because there are a number of factors that affect the revenue an MAO will receive from CMS. Many of these factors are beyond the control of both the MAO and the provider because they are set by CMS. Changes in these “external” factors will directly affect the MLR and significant changes in these factors from one year to the next could inadvertently make the target MLR stated in the shared risk arrangement inconsistent with the parties’ goals.

Figure 1 includes key factors set by CMS that influence an MAO’s revenue.

Transition from RAPS to EDS data decreases Medicare Advantage risk scores

Milliman consultants Deana Bell, David Koenig, and Charlie Mills performed a study of how the transition from Risk Adjustment Processing System (RAPS) data to Encounter Data System (EDS) data is affecting payment year (PY) 2016 risk scores and revenue for Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs). Fifteen MAOs participated in the study, reflecting a cross section of small- and medium-sized organizations and representing over 900,000 members in 154 plans. The consultants offer perspective in their article “Impact of the transition from RAPS to EDS on Medicare Advantage risk scores.”

Overall, the study found that the median percentage difference between PY 2016 risk scores based on RAPS and the EDS-based risk scores is 4.0%. The percentage difference is larger for special needs plans (SNPs) and smaller for general enrollment plans as shown in Figure 1. The prior year’s diagnoses make up a larger component of SNP members’ risk scores, compared to general enrollment plans, so the risk score impact for SNP plans is larger.

[The authors] have not attempted to quantify what portion of the difference between RAPS and EDS is due to incompleteness of the EDS submissions, issues with CMS’s return files (revised MAO-004 files), changes to filtering logic, and the effect of claims coding errors.

As an illustration, the potential Part C PY 2016 revenue using the median difference of -4% between RAPS and EDS results in a reduction of approximately $40 per member per year, assuming approximately $800 in Part C risk-adjusted revenue and a 1.0 RAPS-only risk score. To the extent that this -4% gap persists in future years, the revenue impact will grow because the EDS-based risk score will make up an increasing portion of the final risk score (e.g., with the 25% EDS weight in PY 2017, the per member reduction would be about $100 per year).

This article is the second in a series of articles on the transition to EDS. For more information about the EDS and RAPS data used in MA risk scores, read “Medicare Advantage and the Encounter Data Processing System: Be prepared.”

MedPAC’s proposed changes to Medicare Part D: Considerations for Part D plan sponsors

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s proposed modifications to the Part D federal reinsurance program could change the financial dynamics for Plan D plan sponsors, particularly if appropriate updates are not made to the risk score model. This paper by  Milliman consultants David Liner and Nicholas Johnson outlines key considerations for plan sponsors as they prepare for proposed changes to the Part D program.

This article is part two of a two paper series. Read paper one about considerations for Part D stakeholders.