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.
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.
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.
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:
- Make it an ongoing process. Member primacy is constantly changing, so you have to keep on top of your monthly reviews.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.