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.
Health plans see value in prepayment cost avoidance
Health plans are making a concerted effort to focus more of their payment integrity resources on avoiding inaccurate claims payments up front, rather than recovering erroneous payments on the back end. There is general agreement that this creates more value for a plan. When done successfully, prepayment cost avoidance allows the plan to avoid 100% of the claim cost (vs. the portion they can recover) and it reduces downstream administrative costs associated with recovery. I think we all can agree that having to work a claim multiple times is obviously more expensive than having to work it once.
In addition to financial benefits, prepayment cost avoidance can help health plans positively affect relationships with providers by reducing the burden on them to rework claims that are the responsibility of another payer. I recently saw a statistic that said providers incur an additional 20% – 30% of the cost of any claim they have to rework. Your providers would welcome a reduction in that cost.
Meanwhile, a focus on cost avoidance makes your members more accountable for ensuring that correct eligibility information is on file. Particularly in an area like coordination of benefits, members should feel more compelled to be proactive about providing the health plan with accurate, current information so their claims will be paid promptly without fuss.
Why the cost avoidance shift is happening now
In my experience, this is probably the biggest trend in the industry today. Why? Because of the vendor fees and administrative costs associated with recovering a claim that was paid incorrectly. At a time when health plans are very focused on reducing administrative costs and managing shrinking margins, executives are paying attention to every source of leakage.
While prepayment cost avoidance is not a new concept by any means, it requires a level of maturity within a health plan’s payment integrity operations that some plans are just now reaching. For one thing, more mature health plans typically have stronger data integration and analytics capabilities that allow them to look across multiple sources of information to make more accurate payment decisions quickly.
At the same time, their experience with postpayment recovery operations has given them some data to build a business case for the shift to cost avoidance. In my opinion, the largest barrier to cost avoidance until now has been the inability to justify the effort—cost, resources, technology, and vendors—in terms of a business case. There is no standard ROI or business model to work with, and every plan I’ve talked to uses a different approach. The fact is that health plans need to spend money to create a prepay cost avoidance capability and that means making sure the right people in the organization understand the value and business case for it.
For more information, see our infographic about capabilities required for successful prepay cost avoidance.
Coexistence with postpayment recovery
While prepay cost avoidance should be part of a plan’s payment integrity strategy, postpayment recovery must remain part of that strategy as well. The ability to make a prepayment decision can be hindered by the availability of information and the dynamic nature of eligibility and primacy information. Information often isn’t available fast enough to decide if a claim should be held or pended, so prompt-pay rules dictate that the plan must pay.
Meanwhile, member eligibility status and primacy are moving targets and constantly change, so payments are based on outdated information. For some payment integrity functions, like subrogation, costs can be avoided only on part of the whole recovery. In that case, only the first-party liability costs can be avoided, while third-party liability costs have to be paid.
Finding the right balance for your plan
In our view at Discovery, prepay cost avoidance and postpay recovery have to coexist as an integrated solution so you can follow the transaction through the whole lifecycle. The goal should be to find the right balance for your organization.
As health plans consider the proper balance of prepayment cost avoidance and postpayment recovery across their payment integrity programs, it’s important to remember that this is largely a cultural decision. A plan has to be ready to adopt prepay solutions, and a lot goes into that decision—including regulatory issues, technology capabilities, data availability, subject matter expertise, and the business case.