Member Content

Beneath High Ratings, MA-PD Stars Scores Show Shortcomings

Infographic: Number of Highly Rated MA-PD Contracts Soars in Pandemic’s Wake

October 21, 2021

Thanks to numerous flexibilities granted to plan sponsors during the COVID-19 public health emergency, nearly 70% of Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MA-PD) plans earned an overall rating of 4 stars or higher for 2022, CMS said on Oct. 8. That’s compared with just 49% of MA-PD plans in 2021. But the underlying data shows that quality improvements weren’t as impressive as the 2022 star ratings suggest, and with rising quality bonus payments (QBPs), the 2022 ratings could have major implications for MA revenue in the future, industry experts warn.

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Last-Minute Memo Roils MAOs’ Third-Party Marketing Plans

October 21, 2021

Just eight days into the marketing period for the 2022 Medicare plan year, CMS issued a memo on third-party marketing that, while expected, has led to some confusion among Medicare Advantage plans and their industry partners regarding already finalized marketing materials.

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Plans Seek Ways to Promote Provider Use of Z Codes

October 21, 2021

As Medicare and Medicaid plans seek ways to improve overall care quality by addressing members’ social determinants of health, an emerging source of beneficiary-level SDOH data is a subset of ICD-10 “Z Codes,” which can be attached to claims and encounters to identify causes other than a disease or injury. While there is payer enthusiasm for using these codes, new research suggests that plans have a long way to go to increase provider uptake and establish best practices in this area.

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News Briefs

October 21, 2021

✦ CMS has given itself another year to finalize a proposal to begin using an extrapolation methodology in recovering overpayments from Medicare Advantage organizations. The Trump administration in a November 2018 proposed rule (83 Fed. Reg. 54982, Nov. 1, 2018) said it planned to extrapolate the results of Risk Adjustment Data Validation Audits, starting with 2011 contract-level audits, and not apply a “fee-for-service adjuster” to account for inaccurate diagnosis codes in FFS Medicare data used to calibrate the MA risk adjustment model. In a Federal Register notice published on Oct. 21, CMS cited “exceptional circumstances” for exceeding the statutory three-year timeline and explained that it received extensive public comments on the proposal and the FFS Adjuster study that it released just prior to publishing the November 2018 proposed rule. CMS said it plans to publish the final rule by Nov. 1, 2022.

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Telehealth SUD Treatment Needs More Research, Oversight

October 15, 2021

A growing amount of treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs) has moved to telehealth providers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend likely increased patients’ access to treatment, among other benefits, but researchers and plan sponsors say that the efficacy and value of virtual care modalities in SUD settings is still an open question.

Last year, during the first wave of the pandemic, the entire health care system had to make internet and telephone care available in a short time. SUD treatment was no different. A good deal of SUD treatment traditionally takes place in person, especially in peer support groups and inpatient drug detox. Researchers were already investigating whether remote SUD care is useful before the pandemic, but their work became urgent last spring and summer as providers rushed to meet social distancing requirements.

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UnitedHealth Reports Solid 3Q Despite Rising COVID Costs

October 15, 2021

UnitedHealth Group’s third-quarter 2021 financial results impressed Wall Street, with equities analysts describing the company’s performance as “solid across the board” and “generally positive” even though the company did see health care costs related to COVID-19 rise during the quarter.

The diversified health care giant and parent company of the country’s largest health insurer reported an adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $4.52 for the third quarter, beating the Wall Street consensus of $4.41. The firm’s revenues increased 11% year over year to $72.3 billion, which it attributed to “balanced, double-digit growth at both Optum and UnitedHealthcare.” And the company’s medical loss ratio for the quarter was 83%, slightly beating the consensus estimate of 83.4% but representing an increase compared to last year’s 81.9%, which UnitedHealth said was due to the repeal of the health insurance tax.

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