The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented stress and challenges to the healthcare industry. Based on the nature of the Medicare Advantage program and the predominantly elderly population it serves, Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) in particular face unique challenges. Beginning in early 2020, parts of the country implemented social distancing, with periods of closures or reduced capacity for many healthcare professional offices and postponement of nonurgent procedures at hospitals. Due to greater susceptibility, seniors may continue social distancing for more time and may be more hesitant to continue with normal social interactions, including receiving routine healthcare services.
In this article, Milliman’s David Koenig, Rob Pipich, and Michael Polakowski explain why MAOs need to be aware of the possible implications of these realities on their business and why they should address any issues now.
Hurricanes can have a significant operational and financial effect on healthcare providers, insurers, and payers. Organizations that deliver or finance healthcare services in impacted areas must consider the various outcomes resulting from any disruptions. In this article, Milliman’s Lynn Dong, Scott Jones, and Michael Polakowski highlight a list of short-term and long-term effects for organizations to evaluate.
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, Nick 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.
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
On December 18, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee released alternative policy options meant to improve the care of chronic conditions for Medicare beneficiaries. In this article, Milliman’s Michael Polakowski and Nick Johnson outline 24 proposals that may have a wide-ranging impact on traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare accountable care organizations. These policies are still under consideration; the Finance Committee’s bipartisan chronic care working group is requesting feedback and comments by today.