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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Discovery announces webinar on payment integrity analytics

Data scientists bring fresh thinking to payment integrity processes

 

ITASCA, IL (August 1, 2018)—Discovery Health Partners, a provider of payment and revenue integrity solutions for healthcare payers, will host a webinar August 8, 2017, to share the principles of data science that are transforming the way payment integrity processes are managed, with measurable impact on recovery results. Titled “Payment Integrity: Using analytics to drive better results,” the webinar features Discovery healthcare payment integrity and analytics expert Steve Forcash, Vice President of Analytics.

The webinar will explore how principles of data science are being applied to real-world payment integrity processes and offer actionable steps for getting started with an analytics agenda:

  • What levers are available in the typical payment integrity business process
  • How data science techniques ensure we pick the right cases, helping maximize client savings while minimizing member and provider abrasion
  • How to identify capabilities that are largely transferable across payment integrity functions
  • How advanced analytics can position postpayment solutions for a shift to prepayment or hybrid pre/postpayment solutions

Seats remain available for this free webinar. To register for the webinar, visit http://bit.ly/Payment-Integrity-Webinar

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About Discovery Health Partners

Discovery Health Partners, a division of LaunchPoint, offers payment and revenue integrity solutions that help health payers improve revenue, avoid costs, and enhance the member experience.  We offer a unique combination of deep healthcare expertise and analytics-powered technology solutions to help our clients improve operational efficiency, achieve financial integrity, and generate measurable results.  More information about our solutions, including Coordination of BenefitsEligibilityMedicare Secondary Payer Validation, and Subrogation is available at https://www.discoveryhealthpartners.com.

 

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Discovery Health PartnersDiscovery announces webinar on payment integrity analytics
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Payment integrity emerging as a top cost reduction opportunity for health plans

As cost reduction continues to take center stage, healthcare payment integrity is in the spotlight. Increasingly, health plan executives are recognizing the power of payment integrity functions to add significant value to a health plan’s bottom line by improving the plan’s ability to recover or avoid improper claims payments and improve accuracy of premium revenue.

But, payment integrity is not always an easy landscape to navigate. Discovery Health Partners has had hundreds of conversations with health plans of every size and membership type across the country and a common theme that emerges is that while improving payment integrity is a priority, it is often one that is difficult to understand, manage, and achieve.

Over the last few months, Discovery has made a dedicated effort to understand what trends are shaping that complex payment integrity landscape. Our team of payment integrity professionals is experienced in not only identifying these trends, but also in understanding how they will impact health plans and shape financial performance and the member experience.

In a series of upcoming blog posts, Discovery will be exploring each of 2017’s payment integrity trends including:

  • Amplified focus on prepayment cost avoidance
  • Continued need for postpayment recovery
  • Heightened visibility around the importance of payment integrity with plan executives
  • Uncertainty about payment integrity performance by internal and vendor teams
  • Increased market consolidation and the impact on vendor selection
  • Growing interest in outsourcing the entire payment integrity function to a single vendor
  • Prioritization of business process outsourcing above software solutions

We also recently partnered with RISE to host a webinar on these trends. RISE, the Resource Initiative and Society for Education, is dedicated to ongoing outreach and education for health plans and providers. RISE offers complimentary webinars, white papers, a newsletter, peer user groups, and ongoing updates for plans and providers seeking the cutting-edge of healthcare information.

The webinar, now available on demand, features Discovery President, Paul Vosters, and VP of Strategic Development, David Grice, discussing each of our trends and answering the following questions:

  • Why should your plan increase the focus on payment integrity results?
  • How can your plan be on the cutting edge of these trends?
  • How can your plan mitigate some of the risks these trends present?
  • How is the latest healthcare payer technology changing the way plans approach data and security?
  • How should your vendors support you as you navigate the payment integrity landscape?

Check back often as we post more information about each of these trends. You can also download our 2017 Payment Integrity Trends white paper to read more.

Paul VostersPayment integrity emerging as a top cost reduction opportunity for health plans
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