Calculating cost avoidance: A closer look at one of 2017’s top payment integrity trends

This post is part of an ongoing series about trends happening within the payment integrity space for healthcare payers. This series features contributions from Discovery Health Partners payment integrity experts discussing these trends, why they’re happening, and how they affect health plans. To learn more about all of the top trends, download our 2017 Payment Integrity Trends whitepaper.

Making the business case for prepayment cost avoidance

As health plans more aggressively adopt cost avoidance as a payment integrity tactic, many struggle with the business justification. There simply is no industry-standard method of quantifying cost avoidance.

With pay-and-chase models of recovery, it’s usually pretty simple – you calculate the recovery and if you’re using a vendor, you subtract a percentage contingency fee. It works nicely in a spreadsheet formula and the extra cash looks great in your P&L. But if you’re avoiding—not recovering—dollars, how do you measure the return on investment? How do you calculate the costs avoided?

Health plans have been left to their own devices to determine the right method to quantify the business case for cost avoidance. And to compound this issue, the method of measuring cost avoidance and the business case isn’t consistent across all types of payment integrity. The calculation and return on investment will differ depending on whether you’re looking at coordination of benefits, subrogation, claims analytics, etc. Based on my experience, even among the largest health plans, there is incredible diversity of opinion on how to measure and value prepay. Read on to learn about some examples that I’ve come across.

Claims cost multiplied by estimated months of savings

This large commercial plan with over 40 million members uses average claim cost per member to calculate potential savings from cost avoidance. The plan first identified “leads,” or members suspected of having other coverage, and sent them to Discovery Health Partners to verify other coverage.

Of those leads, 10% have been confirmed to have other primary coverage. The plan estimates that it would have paid claims for those members for 6 months before catching the error. By multiplying the 6 months times a monthly claims cost per member, the plan figures it avoids more than $7 million in erroneous payments.

This method provides a general sense of the value of cost avoidance, which allows this plan to justify the cost of using a vendor as a partner for some of its prospective COB processes. Not all buy into this method, though. Some might argue that not all members would incur the average claim cost in all 6 months, and some of the costs, had they been paid up front, likely would have been recovered on the back end. This method doesn’t account for that.

On the other hand, it accounts for neither the administrative cost avoided by not having to recover on the back end nor the fact that a percentage of recovery efforts are unsuccessful. In the end, this plan felt that these balance each other out and the methodology works for now.

In another example for COB cost avoidance, one of our clients uses the average cost of claims for each member over the previous 12 months and applies that value over the next 12 months.

Costs to consider when calculating ROI on cost avoidance

Once you have identified a method of calculating the value of cost avoidance, you need to understand the costs that are involved in developing cost avoidance capabilities.

  • Vendor fees. How vendors make revenue will depend on the method the health plan uses to calculate cost avoidance. Options could include contingency, transactional (per validation), monthly, and fixed fees.
  • Resources. Subject matter expertise and operational expertise will help ensure you avoid the right costs at the right time with minimal member and provider abrasion.
  • Technology. Software and other programs allow you to integrate the data from correct sources into your systems so you can make timely pre-payment decisions. This could include applications to manage the workstream.

The move to prepay cost avoidance requires a set of skills that health plans need to develop or acquire in order to be successful. These should be considered when calculating the cost. See our infographic for a list of these capabilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovery Health PartnersCalculating cost avoidance: A closer look at one of 2017’s top payment integrity trends

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