Compliance

HHS Budget Seeks to Give Feds More Power Over Medicaid MCOs

Tucked into the 174-page Fiscal Year 2023 Budget in Brief document recently issued by HHS is a proposal seemingly aimed at giving the federal government more flexibility and power to sanction out-of-compliance Medicaid managed care plans.

“Currently, CMS has inadequate financial oversight and compliance tools in Medicaid managed care, lacking maximum flexibility to disallow and defer individual payments or partial payments associated with contracts with managed care organizations, prepaid inpatient health plans, and prepaid ambulatory health plans,” stated HHS in its budget proposal released on March 28.

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Judge Refuses to Toss Shareholder Suit Against Clover Health

Roughly a year after a highly critical report from an activist short seller cast a pall over Clover Health Investments Corp.’s debut as a publicly traded company, a federal judge has denied a motion to dismiss a key shareholder lawsuit that accuses the Medicare Advantage startup of hiding critical information from investors.

While the Feb. 28 ruling does not make any judgment about the merits of the allegations brought by shareholders Timothy Bond and Jean-Nicolas Tremblay, it is still noteworthy, one legal expert tells AIS Health, a division of MMIT.

“Often these cases are filed but then they’re disposed of early on,” says David Kaufman, an attorney with Laurus Law Group LLC. “This case was not disposed of, so getting beyond the motion to dismiss is pretty significant, and it’s going to require substantial litigation from this point forward before it reaches any kind of decision.”

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With AEP Switching Low, MAOs Must Monitor Member Experience

Medicare beneficiaries have more plan choices than ever before, in addition to a dizzying array of supplemental benefits and increased PPO options, but plan switching has stalled, according to a new study from Deft Research. That leaves Medicare Advantage plans to consider whether low switching is largely due to members feeling satisfied with their current coverage or overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information being presented to them, observed industry experts during a recent webinar hosted by Rebellis Group LLC. As a result, members’ experience during the Annual Election Period may warrant a closer look as plans think about their strategy for the next AEP.

In its 2022 Medicare Shopping and Switching Study, Deft observed an overall switching rate of 11% during the most recent AEP. That’s compared with 12% seen in 2021 and 23% in 2015, reported George Dippel, executive vice president with Deft, during the March 10 webinar, “With more choices than ever, how will your Medicare Advantage plan stand out in 2023?” The annual survey featured responses from 3,389 Medicare enrollees, including 1,846 seniors who were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2021 and 1,183 seniors with Medicare Supplemental (MedSupp) coverage. The remaining 360 respondents had Original Medicare only (OMO).

Ongoing DOJ Lawsuits Heighten MA Risk Adjustment Scrutiny

Health care fraud was the largest driver of False Claims Act recoveries last year, the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) recently reported. Of the more than $5.6 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2021, more than $5 billion related to matters involving the health care industry, including drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers and hospitals, the DOJ estimated. Medicare Advantage-related recoveries included a $90 million settlement with Sutter Health to resolve allegations that it submitted unsupported diagnosis codes that led to inflated payments to MA plans and the health system and a $6.3 million settlement with Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington (formerly Group Health Cooperative) over similar allegations.

News Briefs: City of New York Appeals Court Decision on Retiree Switch to Group Medicare Advantage

New York City is appealing a recent ruling by the New York Supreme Court that bars the city from imposing a premium on public sector retirees who opt out of group Medicare Advantage coverage that starts April 1. Anthem, Inc. was initially contracted to provide MA coverage to an estimated 200,000 retirees and dependents for a Jan. 1 effective date. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lyle Frank on March 3 ruled that automatic enrollment of beneficiaries cannot start until April 1, retirees must be able to opt out of the new coverage up to three months after the effective date, and they do not have to pay a fee to retain their traditional Medicare coverage. The city’s attempt to charge $191 monthly is in violation of New York City law, which requires the municipal employer to “pay the entire cost of health insurance coverage for city employees, city retirees and their dependents,” Frank ruled. The city’s Office of Labor Relations on March 4 filed an appeal; the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees at press time had filed a cross-appeal and was gathering signatures for a petition urging Mayor Eric Adams (D) not to pursue the appeal.

Calif. Fines L.A. Care $55 Million for Prior Auth, Appeals Issues

L.A. Care, the Medicaid-focused health plan owned by Los Angeles County, has been fined $55 million by the state of California for allegedly mishandling prior authorizations and coverage appeals. According to state regulators, L.A. Care — the largest nonprofit Medicaid managed care organization (MCO) in the country — mishandled more than 67,000 grievances filed by plan members, which caused sick patients to be denied proper care or wait months for urgent treatment.

Two California agencies, the Dept. of Managed Health Care (DMHC) and Dept. of Health Care Services (DHCS), launched an investigation into L.A. Care’s prior authorization and denial appeals processes after a September 2020 Los Angeles Times article revealed that extremely ill L.A. Care members faced dangerous delays when they tried to see a specialist. The combined $55 million in fines assessed by the agencies far outstrips the previous record fine in California, $10 million, for similar violations, according to the news outlet.

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Slim Marketing Guidelines Stress Importance of Reviewing Regs

After nearly four years, CMS has released an updated version of the Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines (MCMG) that serve to interpret and provide guidance on the marketing and communication rules for Medicare Advantage and Part D sponsors. Compliance experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that the long-awaited document is light on additional guidance and clarification except for a few topics, and plans are encouraged to review all related regulations to stay compliant with marketing rules.

Aside from severely whittling down the document — the 2022 MCMG is now a mere 51 pages, down from 84 pages when last released as a full document for the 2019 plan year and 124 pages in the 2018 version — CMS has noticeably consolidated and reorganized sections, moving some subsections into other areas or removing guidance that was codified. The agency reminded plans that the document is to “be used in conjunction with the regulatory requirements to aid plans in understanding and complying with the regulations.”

News Briefs: CMS Is Seeking Applicants for the 2023 MA VBID and Part D Senior Savings Models

CMS on March 1 issued a request for applications (RFA) for the 2023 Medicare Advantage Value-Based Insurance Design Model, which will include new elements such as a Health Equity Incubation Program that will encourage testing of interventions in “the most promising focus areas” (e.g., food insecurity) and designing best practices for such interventions. Thirty-four MA organizations are currently offering benefit packages that feature tailored VBID model benefits and rewards and incentives to more than 3.7 million enrollees, according to the model’s website. CMS on Feb. 28 also released an RFA from Medicare Part D sponsors and pharmaceutical manufacturers interested in participating in the 2023 Part D Senior Savings Model. Now in its third year, the insulin-focused model is intended to lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors by featuring “predictable” copayments of no more than $35 for a broad set of insulins. The voluntary model has 106 participants, including five manufacturers. CMS is accepting applications for the VBID model through April 15 and for the SSM through April 8.

InnovAge Stock Falls as Regulators Scrutinize PACE Operations

Despite better-than-expected financial results posted for its fiscal-year 2022 second quarter, shares of InnovAge — the largest provider of Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) — tumbled last week amid concerns about its ability to grow in the face of intensifying regulatory scrutiny. Between federal audits and issues with its state partners, InnovAge’s many struggles relate to program compliance and may demonstrate the difficulties of scaling up a specialized care model in a highly regulated industry.

Providing services primarily through a dedicated center, PACE organizations support frail, elderly Americans who require a nursing-home level of care by offering comprehensive medical care and social supports to help them remain at home. The PACE market serves about 51,000 participants, most of whom are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, and it is largely composed of regional organizations. As the dominant PACE organization, InnovAge serves 12% of that market.

CMS Seeks to Level Member Playing Field Via Stars Changes

Aside from a headline-grabbing estimated pay boost of nearly 8% for Medicare Advantage organizations next year, the Biden administration’s first preliminary rate notice didn’t include many surprises for MA and Part D sponsors. Instead, the notice focused largely on potential changes to star ratings in the name of advancing health equity and monitoring member experience. At the same time, the notice addressed one aspect of payments for insurers serving a large portion of patients diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) but left another to future policymaking.