CMS proposes policy changes to Medicare Advantage, Medicare prescription drug benefit

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday, November 17, 2017, released a proposed rule outlining policy changes to Medicare Advantage (MA) and the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit (Part D). The proposed rule is intended to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to provide feedback to CMS ahead of the annual call letter process, with the draft call letter historically released in February.

The proposed rule includes policies intended to further CMS’ recently announced Patients Over Paperwork initiative, which aims to reduce regulatory and administrative requirements for health care stakeholders. In addition, the proposed rule continues the Administration’s efforts to exercise regulatory authority to help reduce out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs.

The policies outlined in the proposed rule would apply to contract year 2019.

The proposed rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on November 28, 2017, and CMS will accept comments through January 16, 2018.

Key provisions of the proposed rule are highlighted below.

Continue reading “CMS proposes policy changes to Medicare Advantage, Medicare prescription drug benefit”

CMS moves forward with implementation of MACRA, other policy changes in Physician Fee Schedule Update

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday, November 2, 2017, released final rules on Medicare reimbursement for 2018 that will have significant implications for providers’ margins and drive many provider and payer organizations to revisit their strategic objectives. The final rules for the 2018 performance period under the Quality Payment Program (QPP) of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and the 2018 Part B Physician Fee Schedule Update include critical details that will have implications for providers related to value-based care, coding compliance, health information technology investments and telehealth services, among other issues.

The final rule for the MACRA QPP 2018 performance period is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on November 16, 2017, and the final rule on the Part B PFS update is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on November 15, 2017. Provisions of both rules will take effect January 1, 2018.

Continue reading “CMS moves forward with implementation of MACRA, other policy changes in Physician Fee Schedule Update”

CMS finalizes changes to payment policy under the 340B drug discount program

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on November 1, 2017, released the 2018 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) final rule, moving forward with a significant change in payment policy under the 340B drug discount program that was included in the proposed rule earlier released in July.

Beginning January 1, 2018, CMS will no longer reimburse most 340B-purchased drugs at the standard Part B rate of Average Sales Price (ASP) plus 6 percent, and instead will pay a rate of ASP minus 22.5 percent. The change in payment policy has drawn sharp criticism from hospital organizations, including litigation by the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, America’s Essential Hospitals and member hospitals to block the change in payment policy.

Continue reading “CMS finalizes changes to payment policy under the 340B drug discount program”

Open enrollment period for ACA Exchanges begins under President Trump for first time amid ongoing debate over cost-sharing reduction subsidies, ACA waivers

The open enrollment period for coverage for 2018 through the health insurance Exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins today, Wednesday, November 1, 2017. This is the fifth open enrollment period since the Exchanges opened in 2014 and the first open enrollment period of President Trump’s Administration. The open enrollment period for the 39 states using the HealthCare.gov platform for plan year 2018 will close December 15, 2017; the open enrollment period in previous years ran through January 31 of the plan year. A number of states running their own Exchanges for plan year 2018 will have longer open enrollment periods than states using the HealthCare.gov platform.

This year’s open enrollment period begins after nine months of debate in Congress over various proposals to repeal and replace select provisions of the ACA, President Trump’s October 12, 2017, decision to stop reimbursing health plans for cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies without congressional authorization, and a number of other regulatory decisions reflecting the Trump Administration’s position on the ACA.

Highlights of the current status of select issues related to the ACA Exchanges are provided below.

Continue reading “Open enrollment period for ACA Exchanges begins under President Trump for first time amid ongoing debate over cost-sharing reduction subsidies, ACA waivers”

A renewed focus on the future of the 340B program

On Thursday, July 13, 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that updates the payment rates and policy changes in the Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS). In the provisions, CMS proposes to change the payment rate for certain Medicare Part B drugs purchased by hospitals through the 340B program.

The proposed changes include adjusting the applicable payment rate for drugs acquired under the 340B program from average sales prices (ASP) plus 6 percent to ASP minus 22.5 percent. This potentially represents a significant reduction to how much Medicare pays 340B hospitals for Part B drugs under OPPS.

Continue reading “A renewed focus on the future of the 340B program”

CMS proposes changes to MACRA Quality Payment Program for 2018

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on June 30, 2017, published a proposed rule outlining changes for the 2018 performance year of the Quality Payment Program (QPP) under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). MACRA’s QPP includes the incentive payments for advanced alternative payment models (A-APMs) and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). Performance in 2018 will determine payment adjustments to clinicians that will be applied to their Medicare Part B payments in 2020.

The first performance year began January 1, 2017, for Part B payment adjustments in 2019.

MACRA repealed the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for updates to the Medicare Part B Physician Fee Schedule and sets payment updates for all years in the future. Through the QPP, the law is intended to link Medicare payment updates to quality and performance and drive the health care payment system across all payers away from fee-for-service reimbursement models.

Select key provisions of the proposed rule are highlighted below.

Continue reading “CMS proposes changes to MACRA Quality Payment Program for 2018”

CMS releases final Medicare audit protocol updates

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released the final protocols for 2017 audits of Medicare Parts C and D plans. This is the latest step in a process RegPulse has reported on during the initial release and as draft protocols underwent updates during the last year.

The audit protocol revisions affect the ways in which plan sponsors—such as Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs), Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs), and Medicare-Medicaid Plans (MMPs)—prepare and present information about their data universes to CMS. Sponsors that take part in these programs should review the changes and continue or update their programs assessments to identify the changes that affect them and plan appropriate responses.

Here is a summary of the relevant changes to the audit protocols in the final release, listed by program type:

Continue reading “CMS releases final Medicare audit protocol updates”

Amidst ongoing debate over future of ACA Exchanges, CMS finalizes rule for 2018 and a timeline for submission of plans

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last week released a final rule on the 2018 benefit year for Exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as a final timeline for health insurers to submit products for federally-facilitated Exchanges and other tools plans will need to submit products for ACA Exchanges for 2018. Notably, the final rule was published in the Federal Register on the same day that health insurers met with CMS Administrator Seema Verma and other Administration officials about the ACA Exchanges.

The final rule is intended to reduce volatility in the non-group and small group health insurance markets, and it finalizes with few changes policies included in a proposed rule published in the Federal Register on February 17, 2017. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, and its provisions take effect June 19, 2017. The policies in the final rule include changes requested by health insurers in previous years.

Continue reading “Amidst ongoing debate over future of ACA Exchanges, CMS finalizes rule for 2018 and a timeline for submission of plans”

CY 2018 changes and policy updates for Medicare health and drug plans

Summary of provisions and impacts

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its Advance Notice of Methodological Changes for Calendar Year (CY) 2018 for Medicare Advantage (MA) Capitation Rates, Part C and Part D Payment Policies and 2018 Draft Call Letter on February 1, 2017.

The purpose of the Advance Notice and draft Call Letter was to notify Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAO) and Part D sponsors of proposed changes to the Part C and Part D programs for the following plan year, including but not limited to:

  • Planned changes in the MA capitation rate methodology and risk adjustment methodology applied under Part C for CY 2018
  • Proposed changes in the Part D payment methodology for CY 2018
  • Proposed changes to the quality rating system and information the MAOs and Part D sponsors should consider while preparing their 2018 bids

CMS received many submissions in response to the request for comments on the Advance Notice and released final updates to MA and Part D Prescription Drug Programs for 2018 on April 3, 2017.
Continue reading “CY 2018 changes and policy updates for Medicare health and drug plans”

House begins consideration of legislation to repeal and replace key provisions of the Affordable Care Act

The House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee today (Wednesday, March 8, 2017) are scheduled to begin marking up the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would repeal and replace certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) released the draft legislation late Monday, March 6, 2017.

The House Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over tax provisions in the legislation, while the House Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over provisions related to Medicaid.

In general, the draft legislation would maintain the ACA’s tax credits and states’ option to expand Medicaid in their current forms through December 31, 2019. Under the AHCA, new tax credits and Medicaid funding formulas would take effect beginning January 1, 2020.

The draft legislation in its current form would not make changes to the individual tax exclusion for employer-sponsored coverage, or certain ACA health insurance market reforms, including allowing adult children up to age 26 to stay on a parent’s health coverage and a prohibition on denying coverage or rate setting based on an individual’s pre-existing health conditions.

Continue reading “House begins consideration of legislation to repeal and replace key provisions of the Affordable Care Act”