Maximizing your COB processes with integrated technology

Primacy and eligibility errors can lead to serious losses and expenses. By some estimates, a third of paid health claims contain errors, and as many as 15% of members have other insurance—representing a staggering $1 trillion in annual waste1. Paying for claims due to incomplete or inaccurate member eligibility not only costs your plan millions in higher payouts and administrative costs, these errors can also generate substantial downstream administrative costs and greatly impact your provider and member relationships.

While Coordination of Benefits (COB) is a common occurrence (the process of determining which plan pays for what portions of a claim), the challenges associated with addressing other insurance retrospectively lead to increased administrative costs and payouts. Plans must go beyond the traditional process of post-payment recovery to an expansion of prospective processes that identify potential primacy conflicts while still in the pre-payment stage.

Things to ask as you evaluate your COB processes:

  • How can we identify more instances of other coverage and maximize our savings from cost avoidance and recovery of overpaid claims?
  • Do we have the data mining technology and expertise to identify Medicare or other commercial coverage?
  • How do our COB processes compare to industry best practices?
  • How do we transition our COB program from recovery to cost avoidance?
  • How can we minimize member and provider abrasion while coordinating benefits?

Data mining, business intelligence, and analytics are at the core of today’s most successful payment integrity strategies, including COB. As part of our connected payment integrity approach, Discovery’s COB solution automates data integration across multiple sources, bringing it all together in a single database that allows for quick and accurate identification of claims and provider responsibility. This means frequently refreshed data with up-to-date information. In addition, predictive analytics and machine-learning technologies analyze and prioritize data, allowing us to flag and take a closer look at members with a high probability of having other coverage. Our goal is to identify and address primacy issues at the earliest possible stage—improving claims payment accuracy, building stronger relationships with providers, and reducing administrative expenses.

To learn how Discovery Health Partners has helped health plans drive cost savings and millions of dollars in recoveries, download our COB case study or visit our Coordination of Benefits solution page.

1 The Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (July 2015)
Ron JonesMaximizing your COB processes with integrated technology
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Choosing the right COB partner for your plan

At any given time, between 8-15% of a health plan’s membership is covered by another plan, resulting in incorrect eligibility information that could be costing your plan millions in incorrect payments, time, and resources.

Disparate data, siloed information systems, and multiple moving parts all contribute to incorrect eligibility information and improper payments. To identify instances of other health insurance, your plan needs access to multiple data sources and the ability to verify state, CMS, and CAQH data—all of which add more time and resources. Even if done correctly, there is still a chance your plan is leaving money on the table. So what can you do and how do you find the right partner to supplement your team?

Choosing the right partner has never been more important or more daunting. A growing number of vendors claim to use leading-edge technology such as data mining, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. But what does this mean to you and your health plan?

To help you choose the right COB partner, here are some key factors to consider:

  • Data: Where is the potential vendor getting its data and is the data relevant to your plan?
  • Expertise: What type of clients does the COB vendor work with today? Are they specialized in one line of business or do they work across multiple? Does the vendor have folks with plan-side experience?
  • Satisfaction: Does the vendor have a track record of delivering value to its clients?
  • Flexibility: Is the vendor flexible enough to wrap around your current team? Or are they inflexible to change?
  • Technology: Is the vendor using cutting-edge technology—like AI and machine learning—to look at eligibility more holistically?
  • Research and development: Is the vendor relying on standardized practices that “worked before”? Or do they have a team of seasoned research analysts dedicated to looking for new rules, regulations, data sources, and data points to deliver additional value?
  • Full-service capabilities: Does the vendor offer solutions spanning all phases of the claims lifecycle (e.g., prospective, retrospective, hospice, etc.)?
  • Security: Is the vendor HIPAA and HITRUST compliant? What security standards and access policies are in place?
  • Partnership: Is the vendor willing to learn about your organization, what’s important you, and how to support your COB process and goals? Is this a joint collaboration and journey? Where does you plan line up with the vendor’s other clients? Will you be a priority for them?

 

To learn how Discovery Health Partners can help support your COB initiatives, visit our Coordination of Benefits solution page or open up the contact form to the right.

Kevin McDonaldChoosing the right COB partner for your plan
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Subrogation: 3 ways SaaS can help

For many health plans, the challenges associated with subrogation―the process of recovering healthcare claim payments that are a third-party’s responsibility―are significant. Outdated identification methods, potential member abrasion, slow validation processes, and marginal settlement rates all impact your ability to appropriately contain and recover costs.

How can you overcome these challenges and maximize recoveries in less time and at a lower cost? Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are a way to enhance your subrogation programs and recoveries. Plans are finding that the combined power of transformative technology and in-house expertise facilitates a more effective, data-driven approach for finding and validating recovery opportunities with minimal member abrasion.

With this in mind, here are three simple but powerful ways SaaS solutions can help you optimize your subrogation operations:

#1: Make in-house recovery management more efficient and insightful

The power of automation allows health plans to do more with less. Built-in algorithms, advanced data-mining techniques, and machine learning work to effortlessly manage cases and shorten the information gathering process. Reporting and analysis give instant and sharable views into recovery efforts. Combine these solutions with user-defined customization options that can be tailored to your needs, and the once burdensome task of subrogation becomes a breeze.

#2: Gain accessible, easy-to-use, highly scalable, and secure solutions

With SaaS, there’s no need for rigorous installs or startups. The system can scale drastically and on-demand, depending on your organization’s needs. Most importantly, the security and fail-safe measures in place not only guarantee continued operations in an emergency, but also consistently ensure that HIPAA and HITRUST CSF® certification requirements are met.

#3: Do more at a lower cost

With the advent of cloud technology, SaaS offers a significant boost to the bottom line for any business. Every application can be accessed from a simple desktop, and processes have been streamlined to make it as painless as possible. Regular, non-disruptive system enhancements work to improve your solutions as well, so your recovery efforts—and your business—continually evolve without interruption.

In a highly competitive marketplace where claims accuracy and cost containment are paramount, SaaS applications can empower your plan with improved efficiencies and productivity―facilitating more accurate payment decisions and generating greater recoveries.

To learn more about the benefits of SaaS applications for subrogation, download our white paper or visit our Subrogation solutions page.

Heather RodemannSubrogation: 3 ways SaaS can help
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It’s challenging to identify and restore underpaid ESRD premiums. Here’s how to solve that.

Why it’s a challenge to identify and restore underpaid ESRD premiums

In her recent blog, Why Medicare Advantage plans may be losing money on members with ESRD, my colleague Lyndsay Deckert addressed the challenges MA plans face with receiving accurate premiums from CMS for members with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). I’ll pick up from Lyndsay’s information and delve more deeply into how Medicare Advantage plans can restore underpaid ESRD premiums.

Health plans miss out on millions in premium revenue that can be traced back to missing or inaccurate CMS data about ESRD statuses for MA members. To address this, many plans have developed processes for identifying and correcting inaccurate data, restoring underpaid premiums, and ensuring they collect the correct premiums going forward for their members with ESRD. However, ESRD premium restoration is a complex process that requires combing through multiple data sources to identify potential premium gaps and working through providers to correct ESRD-related patient information. This process is painstaking and requires tenacity.

ESRD reporting is (mostly) out of your control

The first challenge is sifting through data in CMS Monthly Membership Reports (MMRs), plan eligibility files, and claims data to find any potentially underpaid premiums. The clues may be hidden in various, disparate data sources. To make sense of these clues, it helps to have an automated process to bring all these data sources together and use optimized analytical queries to find anomalies in the data. This is in your control.

What’s not in your control is updating the potential missing flags once you’ve identified them. Plans must work with providers who are often pressed for time and resources and are subject to human error. One simple mistake can prevent CMS from restoring a patient’s ESRD status in the member data. This omission can take years to uncover and can cost the health plan millions in the meantime.

Plans can take control of ESRD restoration with systematic approach and patience

CMS allows health plans to identify, investigate, and restore up to 84 months of underpaid premiums for members with ESRD. However, it’s the plan’s responsibility to identify those ESRD members and to ensure their data is validated and corrected according to CMS guidelines.

Plans that take a systematic approach to analyzing and reconciling their ESRD membership can successfully restore underpaid premiums and ensure accurate premium payments going forward. Many plans find that partnering with an experienced ESRD premium restoration vendor to focus on the things outside the plan’s control can help maximize results.

Here are 5 components of an effective ESRD premium restoration program that plans should look for:

Analytics—Comb through vast amounts of MMR, eligibility, and claims data going as far back as 84 months and identify likely ESRD members that require further investigation

Investigation—Determine the root-cause issues for each ESRD member that’s identified and the right process for addressing the issues with the appropriate submitting authorities

Remediation—Use the right method of outreach and coordinate with dialysis centers, CMS, or other third parties to ensure that information is corrected and updates are confirmed

Restoration—Diligently track and reconcile restored premiums and monitor future premiums for accuracy for as long as it takes to make sure revenue is fully realized

Monitoring—Ensure that each identified ESRD member status continues to be reported accurately and that correct premiums continue to be paid

With a systematic approach, time, and patience, plans can gain control of ESRD member statuses and restore underpaid premiums.

Kevin McDonaldIt’s challenging to identify and restore underpaid ESRD premiums. Here’s how to solve that.
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Why Medicare Advantage plans may be losing money on members with ESRD

MA plans may be operating at a deficit for some members with ESRD diagnoses

Among the Medicare Advantage (MA) population, roughly half of a percent of members have a costly disease known as ESRD, or end-stage renal disease. Though this accounts for just under 100,000 people nationwide, the disease requires expensive, life-long care, which results in a disproportionate percentage of medical expense. For this reason, MA plans must ensure they know who these members are and verify that the premiums they’re receiving from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are correct.

The 21st Century Cures Act (CURES; P.L. 114-255) will allow Medicare-eligible individuals with existing ESRD to enroll in Medicare Part C plans beginning in 2021[i]. With this significant change and as MA plans grow in popularity among older Americans, plans can expect to see an increase in their members with ESRD. To help manage this change, plans must focus on maximizing their financial performance so they can continue to remain competitive and offer enhanced benefits and care for their members.

And when it comes to covering the cost of care for members with ESRD, if CMS isn’t correctly paying these members’ premiums, then plans begin to operate at a deficit for these members. They pay the high cost of care, including ongoing dialysis treatments, but they do not receive the revenue to cover those costs. Over time, this adds up to millions in lost revenue for plans.

Higher CMS premiums should cover higher cost of care

CMS pays MA plans a significantly higher premium for each member with ESRD to help cover the higher costs of their expensive long-term treatment and care. The difference between a base monthly premium for a healthy member and a member with ESRD is roughly $6,000.

Because most members with ESRD are affected by a variety of additional health factors that affect their CMS premiums to the MA plan, the actual monthly loss per member can exceed $7,000. You can see how, when those premiums go unpaid, this adds up quickly for a single member and why, for such a small population, the deficit can grow exponentially across the whole population. Considering nationwide MA membership, this represents as much as $600 million in lost ESRD revenue opportunity industry-wide.

ESRD diagnoses go unnoticed

You may wonder how CMS might be overlooking ESRD statuses. The reasons range from clerical errors to eligibility issues to technology problems. Sometimes it’s just a matter of a delay before CMS begins paying the premiums. In any case, it’s incumbent on the health plan to find these errors and work to correct them so they can recoup underpaid premiums.

Like with premiums for Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP), CMS allows health plans to recover underpaid ESRD premiums 84 months in arrears. All MA plans should examine their populations to identify any missed ESRD statuses and corresponding premium errors. They can work through CMS and providers to identify why the errors happened, correct the problems, and restore underpaid premiums.

Is my plan losing out on ESRD revenue?

Possibly. Unfortunately, ESRD premium gaps are difficult to manage because of the reliance on third-party providers such as dialysis centers.

The bottom line is that ESRD patients may not get flagged in CMS data. And since plans don’t have ready access to the information used in ESRD treatment and reporting, they may not even be aware of a member’s diagnosis until months or years into their treatment, after they have already missed out on millions in premiums.

We work with a number of MA plans to find missing ESRD flags and restore underpaid premiums for those members.  We’ve consistently identified millions of dollars in underpaid premiums for plans with more than 100,000 members. And even though some of these plans already successfully identified missing ESRD flags, we uncovered even more.

Learn more about restoring underpaid premiums for members with ESRD.

[i] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45290.pdf

Lyndsay DeckertWhy Medicare Advantage plans may be losing money on members with ESRD
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3 bad habits that are good for healthcare subrogation

When it comes to getting better results from subrogation, forget everything you ever learned in kindergarten! Being unfair is…well, unfair; ignoring people is bad; and being pushy is rude.

But adopting a few “bad” habits actually can make your subrogation program stronger to drive better financial results and member feedback.

1. Be unfair

Not all subrogation cases are equal, so let’s not treat them that way. Some cases are worthy of more time and energy than others, so let’s find new and better ways to identify the right cases and use the most advanced methods to pursue them.

First, you have to be as certain as possible that a case has subrogation potential and this starts with the identification phase of your subrogation process.

For too long, the practice was to cast a wide net when looking for cases to subrogate. Anything that looked like a car accident or a slip-and-fall case ended up in the “verification” bucket. The problem with this “wide net” approach is that it funnels too many false positives into the process. Devoting time and resources to a case that has no recovery potential ties up your staff (which costs you time and money) and creates undue stress on members.

The last decade has seen advances in information science and technology that have allowed subrogators to more precisely identify cases that actually have third-party liability and can be expected to reach a settlement.

You can now mine claims data for details such as diagnosis codes and demographic data that signal a subrogatable case. In fact, ICD-10, which came out in 2015, has been beneficial for companies using data mining to zero in on claims with greater likelihood of having subrogation potential. Many health plans and vendors have adopted these techniques, which have allowed them to reduce false positives so they can use resources more efficiently and cost-effectively, while improving settlement ratios.

Recent years have seen the most aggressive health plans and vendors (including yours truly) begin to experiment with technologies that fall into the category of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics.

These emerging technologies allow us to build upon the improvements of the last decade by learning from subrogation results and automatically applying those learnings back into the case identification algorithms to become even more precise.

2. Ignore your members

Well, not really. But as you pursue the big business of subrogation for your health plan, keep an even bigger focus on your members’ experience. Remember that your members come first above all.

It has become clear to all of us in this business that we need to find more ways to verify the causes of injury and rely less on calling and mailing members repeatedly.  The first line of defense for your members is the identification process (described in #1 above), which allows you to more accurately identify cases that actually have third-party liability. With this smaller net, you minimize false positives, which as a matter of course, reduces unnecessary outreach to those members.

Additionally, you can take advantage of external liability databases and other third-party data services to augment your detection methods and further minimize member outreach. One use case for this type of service is medical malpractice and personal injury claims, which can be difficult to find using traditional data mining techniques. These techniques can shorten the lifecycle of subrogation cases by as much as 90 days, while minimizing member outreach.

3. Be pushy

The previous two subrogation bad habits lend themselves to the third, which is to be pushy. When we’re aggressive about accurately and quickly identifying and verifying subrogation cases, we increase our chances of not only reaching settlement more quickly, but also reaching a settlement that is agreeable to us and/or our clients.  How, you ask?

Prioritize cases

One way to get more aggressive is to prioritize cases by dollar values and “push” them to staff accordingly. Obviously, a case totaling $450,000 in claims demands more attention and resources than one totaling $4,000 in claims. Yet traditionally, all cases ended up in the same pile to be worked top to bottom. In subrogation, time is money.

The faster you act on a case, the better your chances of reaching a desirable settlement. But the faster cases pile up, and the more overwhelmed the team gets, the more this idea falls by the wayside.

Case management technologies can automatically drive prioritization methods throughout your subrogation process based on rules you define. As a result, you can get the timeliest and costliest cases pushed to the top.

Similarly, case management queues can assign specific cases to recovery specialists most suited to characteristics of the case. For example, if you can identify which team members are best at negotiating with difficult attorneys, then you can automatically push cases to those specialists.

Engage legal resources at the right time

Once you make it to the settlement phase of a subrogation case, it’s important to engage with your legal resources, whether internal or external, to aggressively pursue optimal recovery for the health plan.

Though settlement is typically the shortest phase in a subrogation case, it’s also the trickiest and most involved because it’s when you start talking about limited dollars available, you have to be articulate in legal arguments, you must have a strong understanding of the plan’s rights, and you must be able to aggressively negotiate to recoup dollars on behalf of the plan.

Subrogation lawyers and paralegals who are trained to manage these types of negotiations can navigate this complicated phase to quickly optimize your settlements.

Consider subrogation prepay cost avoidance

Health plans are showing a growing interest in identifying third-party liability before paying a claim. As health plans become increasingly adept at data integration for mining and analytics (either internally or through their vendors) they have more tools to inform pre-payment decisions.

If a plan is able to coordinate a third-party liability claim with a primary payer, it can avoid the cost without engaging in subrogation methods. Due to time constraints, pre-pay subrogation may prove to be more member intensive, requiring direct outreach to identify if there is another recovery source.

In the case of subrogation, as in most payment integrity functions, pre-pay cost avoidance has to be balanced with post-pay recovery. It’s never all or nothing. Even if the decision is to pay a claim because it appears that there is no liability or no other coverage available, the claim can be pended for potential post-pay subrogation.

Summary

Now is the time for subrogators to take a fresh look at the tools and techniques they use to identify, investigate, and settle third-party liability cases. Technology-enabled subrogation is the way to go, and fortunately for everyone, newer technologies are making it more possible than ever to narrow the focus on subrogatable cases, minimize member contact, shorten time to settlement, and maximize recoveries.

Learn more on our Subrogation solutions page.

Heather Rodemann3 bad habits that are good for healthcare subrogation
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The bad news: the bad guys are getting smarter. The good news: so are we.

It can be the small, unintentional errors that expose valuable health data to data thieves.  Filling out social media quizzes that are actually gathering information about you—like your birth month or high school mascot. Holding your building door open for a delivery person with their hands full. Clicking on an urgent email request from a senior executive.

Small errors can lead to massive data breaches. Here’s how we help keep health data safe.

A company’s security is only as strong as their weakest link.  At Discovery Health Partners, we’ve earned certified status for information security by HITRUST for several of our technologies that drive the use of data across our solutions.

One of the parts of HITRUST compliance is user awareness training—reinforcing the procedures everyone needs to follow to ensure that our employees aren’t going to violate your health plan’s data.

Along with processes, tools and technology, we’ve implemented ongoing employee training:

  • Our employees are trained to understand how to handle data in any type of media—whether it’s in an email, a computer monitor, or a printed document
  • We have specific instructions on how to handle data at any point—including destruction of media
  • We’ve educated our team on the many social engineering tactics hackers use (Tips and tricks featured below)
  • We follow up this training with monitoring and reporting to ensure that these safe practices happen—and we can respond quickly if we discover a glitch
  • We also ensure our third-party providers protect your data with tight security protocols, monitoring, and training

While a company can have the latest cybersecurity technology in place, if someone in our building opens the door to let someone in—or clicks on a link in an email that seems to come from HR, they’ve just bypassed that technology.

So as the bad guys get better and smarter, it’s even more important for us to train our employees to be diligent and aware of the latest tricks.

As a recent report on healthcare data breaches reasonably pointed out—while people are a company’s most valuable asset, from a security point of view, they can also be its weakest link.

Learn more about HITRUST certification here.

Tips and tricks

Data breaches are often the result of social engineering, attempts to trick unsuspecting employees into handing over confidential or sensitive data. Social engineering plays on human nature and emotion to deceive someone into providing access to information or deviating from established security protocols. Here are some examples of social engineering and how you can help avoid falling for these attacks.

TIP Be careful on social media. Based on your social networking, hackers may already have a lot of information about you. They may know your name, where you work, your birthday, what position you hold.

TIP You get an email from HR asking you to click a link for an employee opinion survey. Before you click that link—verify the sender by hovering over the email address.

TIP Have at least three algorithms for your online passwords—one for your banking, one for your personal use and one only for work.

Juliet DeVriesThe bad news: the bad guys are getting smarter. The good news: so are we.
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4 ways technology is shaping the future of COB

When we think of the future, we tend to think of things like space travel, the next presidential election, and what we’ll have for dinner later tonight. That’s all very interesting, but what about the future of…healthcare coordination of benefits? Okay, maybe it’s not as exciting as humans living on Mars or Oprah for president, but there are some interesting things happening in COB that are changing the way health plans approach this age-old process. Here are four ways technology is changing how we think about COB.

1. A data-driven approach

What do we mean by a data-driven approach? At the most basic, it means to use all relevant and available data sources to identify members with other insurance who could have recoverable claims. This isn’t necessarily futuristic. Don’t we all use multiple sources for this now – eligibility and claims files, MSP files, CAQH data, State Medicaid files, Section 111 reporting?

For the most part, yes. But HOW are we looking at this data? Is it a team of investigators pouring over Excel spreadsheets and printed files, trying to draw conclusions? Do they waste a lot of time investigating claims that aren’t recoverable? Are they calling members to get the information they need? Do they miss potential opportunities to recover claims?

It’s not just a matter of having the data. What matters as well is the speed with which we’re able to get that data. As an industry, when we think about the future of COB, we need to think about fast, automated data integration across multiple sources. In other words, bringing all that data together into a single database that can be queried to quickly and accurately identify claims that are likely to be another provider’s responsibility (see #2 below).

We need to think about refreshing this data faster so we have the latest information at our fingertips at all times so we can make decisions earlier in the process that would allow us to maximize our recoveries and up-front cost avoidance. And we need to think about emerging data sources that can help improve the accuracy of the member profile. For example, is there an opportunity to mine social data (e.g. Facebbook posts) to learn of qualifying life events?

If you really want to get into the weeds about data integration in the health insurance industry, check out this great blog post by data integration company Veristorm.

2. Analytic focus

Wikipedia defines analytics as the “discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data.” From a COB perspective, we can apply analytics to the data we have to identify members with the highest probability of having other coverage.

Most in the industry are at least dipping their toes into the analytics pool. Much of it today is “rules-based” analytics. For example, we’ll create a simple business rule that says when a member turns 65, they should be on Medicare. This yields information that tells us to analyze whether those members are on Medicare.

Analytics is where things could get really interesting for COB and despite much hype, the industry is just getting started here. When we apply advanced analytic techniques like predictive analytics, we can quickly look at multiple factors (such as age, demographics, disease categories, and much more) to more closely pinpoint members that may require COB. Taking it a step further, machine learning technologies would automatically determine the most successful indicators (or combination of indicators) of other coverage and automatically update the analytic models to reflect that learning.

Even to me, this all sounds very complicated and daunting. For most organizations, leveraging analytics to drive improvements in payment integrity is more of an evolution than a revolution. I suggest starting small. For example, start with your internal claims and eligibility data and see what you can glean from that. Find out what works and build on it from there. There are several benefits to advancing the use of analytics in healthcare COB, including:

  • Reducing the cost of COB (less manual effort, less time investigating false positives)
  • Reducing member abrasion (more accurate identification means less validation work)
  • Increasing cost avoidance (denying claims that are another plan’s responsibility)

3. Case management application

Full disclosure: this point is somewhat self-serving because Discovery has a proprietary case management application that we use to deliver COB solutions for our clients. But I feel so strongly that this current capability is also critical for the future of COB, that I couldn’t leave it out.

Though COB is a seasoned, well-oiled machine for most health plans, it does encompass many steps and individual processes. It also demands a “paper trail” to capture all the information that is discovered throughout those processes. A case management application is the perfect way to guide your team through your specific process, while capturing and sharing critical data along the way.

This single data repository should be used to drive all case-related activity so you have fast access to high-level and detailed case data. Our Discovery Case Manager allows you to see activity history, planned activity (case diary), and notes (about investigations, status, phone calls, etc.). You also can identify and manage rebill activity at the provider and claim level, and store and update employer and other insurance information and payer order.

Having all this detail in one place provides you with the digital paper trail that not only supports your recovery work, but that could also allow you to make future claims payment decisions more quickly and accurately. And this brings us to our final point below.

4. Reporting tools

As COB organizations become more sophisticated about their use of data and analytics, their reporting capabilities will improve. Dashboards and reports can be automatically created based on data in your case management tool and/or analytic tools to provide you with easy-to- see information about your membership, COB opportunities, and results.

Having access to more accurate data, the organization will be able to better identify members with potential other insurance, improve the accuracy of forecasting, and analyze trends. Reporting functionality through dashboards and/or standard reports is critical for understanding how well your COB process is functioning and to identify areas for improvement. Even with limited data and analytic capabilities, you can begin to experiment with reports. Important data to track for COB includes:

  • Case inventory
  • Case pending
  • Case status
  • Recoveries

The bottom line is that, wherever your COB program is in terms of technology maturity, there may be opportunities to step that up and boost the performance of your program even further. Most COB programs struggle with issues such as ongoing eligibility/member status errors, member and provider abrasion, and resource constraints. Technology-enabled COB can help address these and other challenges that may be standing in the way of your best year yet!

Learn about more COB trends in the infographic, Five trends in healthcare Coordination of Benefits.

Janetta Dean4 ways technology is shaping the future of COB
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4 integration points to keep in mind with your COB vendor

 

It’s common for health plans to manage their coordination of benefits programs internally while using one or more external vendors to provide supplemental COB as a safety net. These vendors come in after the health plan’s COB process to find any missed recovery opportunities.

When selecting a COB vendor, health plans are most interested in partnering with experts whose solutions deliver considerable incremental recovery opportunities with minimal disruption to their existing operations. In fact, the most common question asked by the health plan is, “How will this supplemental solution be integrated into our existing processes?” They want to know that the supplemental process won’t interfere with or duplicate their own work.

As health plans engage with external vendors for supplemental COB, here are the most common integration points of alignment between supplemental COB and health plan operations.

  1. Vendor and health plan communications—This integration point is the announcement of the partnership between the health plan and the selected COB vendor. The health plan will provide written communication explaining services being provided by the COB vendor to internal departments (e.g., member services, provider inquiry, and claims billing) along with information from the COB vendor such as a FAQ reference sheet.
  2. Insurance investigation and verification—This integration point is the most important for minimizing member abrasion. The COB vendor and health plan partner together to customize member Informational Questionnaires (IQ) mail correspondences sent by the vendor. In most cases, the agreed-upon customizations may include adding the health plan’s logo, plan-specific language, and taglines. The COB vendor also should coordinate their member IQ mailings around any of the health plan’s member mailings to avoid members receiving multiple mailings at one time. In addition, the COB vendor should attempt to verify all other health insurance leads by contacting other health plans by phone or using eligibility verification web portals to validate other health plan coverage, rather than reaching out to the member directly.
  3. COB pursuits—This integration point defines the guidelines by which the COB vendor must abide when providing supplemental COB services to the health plan. The identified guidelines at this point may include items such as COB exclusions (e.g., membership, plan, or group) and claims under internal COB investigation. The more specific the guidelines are, the lower the chance for the vendor and the health plan to duplicate efforts.
  4. COB claim recoveries—This integration point outlines the COB claim recovery process between the COB vendor and the health plan.  The finalized recovery process should include the following: frequency of claim recovery file submissions being sent to the health plan, the health plan claim approval/denial terms, and method(s) by which either the vendor or the health plan recovers COB over payments from the provider.

Before health plans engage with an external vendor to provide additional COB services beyond internal COB efforts, it is important to discuss and document integration points and potential points of conflict within each of these areas.

For more information about COB, please visit our resources page.

 

 

Janetta Dean4 integration points to keep in mind with your COB vendor
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Four tips for balancing the effects of Medicare Secondary Payer

Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) is a multi-pronged issue for Medicare Advantage plans. If plans aren’t monitoring the effects of MSP on medical and pharmacy claims as well as premiums from CMS, they could be hurting their bottom line—to the tune of millions of dollars. MSP also introduces compliance responsibilities that plans must regard or else face possible consequences.

This requires a balancing act to ensure primacy information is correct for members with other insurance and to verify that claims are paid and premiums are collected in accordance with the member’s primacy.  Plans should work to identify inaccurate primacy information and build processes that can help correct these errors so they can ensure accurate payments all around.

Let’s look further at each area.

Premium

It’s important to realize that CMS primacy information is not always correct. Medicare Advantage plans should be reviewing CMS information each month to verify primacy to identify underpaid premiums as well as overpaid premiums.

What’s your motivation to verify premium underpayments? Your bottom line! Underpaid premiums often cost health plans more than they realize, and, in fact, Discovery Health Partners has recovered more than $200 million in underpaid premiums for Medicare Advantage plans. When the MA plan moves from secondary payer to primary payer for a member, the plan can recoup underpaid premiums going back 72 months. This adds up quickly!

On the other hand, CMS mandates that plans repay premium overpayments within 60 days. Obviously, this is required to stay in compliance, so plans need to ensure they are checking for CMS overpayments as well.

As plans work to identify and correct primacy errors, we always advise them to do a root-cause analysis to determine why dollars were taken from the plan and identify the entity that “took” the dollars. For example, was it due to a Section 111 reporting issue? You can see this on a quarterly basis if you have constant flip-floppers (members for whom you already corrected primacy but who show up again later as secondary). This could indicate a problem on the commercial side of your own plan.

Once you identify the owner of the problem, you can work with them to make corrections. And you can prioritize the work by which entity or problem affected the most dollars for your plan.

Claims

The financial impact of incorrectly paid claims due to MSP is not as great as the premium impact, but it’s still a worthy effort to verify claims that can return dollars to your plan. As you know, primacy order determines how claims should be paid.

As you update primacy information based on a monthly review of CMS files, it’s important that MSP and claims specialists work closely together. As primacy order changes, claims specialists can make sure claims get adjusted and reviewed. They also should make sure that claims systems are updated in order to pay claims correctly to providers.

You also can recoup overpaid claims (claims that you paid as primary but should have paid as secondary). Usually, you can go back 12 or 18 months to adjust claims and recoup dollars—it depends on contracts with providers or state regulations—which can add up to millions of dollars. It seems that CMS is paying closer attention to how claims are paid and if they follow the order determined by the plan, so if you haven’t focused on this before, now is a good time to change that.

It’s important to look at the full picture across premiums and claims—if you’re getting a reduced premium and paying claims as primary, then it’s a double hit for your plan. If you can correct both, it’s an even bigger improvement to your bottom line.

Pharmacy

Part D plans have an obligation to verify primacy and ensure that member drug benefits are available to them when they need them. Plans that use a pharmacy benefits management firm (PBM) to manage pharmacy claims should be sure to share primacy updates with them and verify that they actually use that information. The PBM should pay claims based on recent verification on the medical side.

It helps to ask PBMs about their processes and how they use the information you give them. Ask them to map out the process so you can see that payments will be correct based on the information you share. Again, CMS is looking at this to ensure pharmacy claims are paid accurately.

Tips and tricks

If you’re uncertain about the performance of your MSP process, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Make it an ongoing process. Member primacy is constantly changing, so you have to keep on top of your monthly reviews.
  2. Check everything. As I said before, CMS may have inaccurate primacy information, so you have to double check that each month. Likewise, make sure your recovered premiums match your expectations each month—if you expect 60 months of premiums back, make sure you get the full 60 months.
  3. Assess. Get to root cause of errors and make sure updates get made.  For example, look for constant flip flops for indications such as Section 111 reporting problems. Also, review TRR 245 and 280s, which notify the plan of a member’s MSP status turning on and off. By reviewing and verifying the daily 245, you can avoid losing dollars instead of recouping after the premium has been reduced.
  4. Validate. Other insurers are your best source of validation information. Consider keeping a database of other insurer phone numbers to make research easier and faster. Use all the information available to you—member surveys, Section 111 responses, CMS reports, etc.

For more on this topic, view our on-demand webinar, Walking the line: balancing claims, premiums, and compliance for MA plans.

 

 

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