CMS Proposes Updates to Medicaid Managed Care Organizations


By Jose Lopez, Senior Consultant, The Verden Group

On May 26th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule aimed at “improving the quality and performance of Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs).” The proposed rule is vast, with more than 650 pages of proposed reforms that attempt to align MCOs with existing regulations for other private and public payers. More than half of all Medicaid beneficiaries (at least 39 million individuals in 39 states and the District of Columbia) have coverage through MCOs.

Amongst the proposed provisions are:

  1. Application of a Minimum Loss Ratio (MLR) to Medicaid and CHIP. The most sweeping change is the application of a federal 85% minimum MLR to MCOs beginning in 2017. MLRs measure how much a managed care plan spends on the provision of covered services compared to the total revenue it receives in capitation payments from the state. Applying a common national standard for calculating MLR is intended to allow comparability across states, facilitate more accurate rate setting, and reduce the administrative burden on managed care plans that operate in multiple states or have multiple product lines.
  2. Greater transparency in how states determine plan payment rates. States will be required to give CMS enough information for the agency to understand the data and the reasoning for the rate.
  3. Apply minimum standards to screen and enroll providers.
  4. Increase Provider Network Access by decreasing time and distance limitations for beneficiaries, particularly from services for Pediatric CHIP providers, OB/GYNs, behavioral health providers, and dentists.
  5. Expanding health plans’ responsibilities in program integrity efforts through administrative and managerial procedures that prevent, monitor, identify, and respond to suspected provider fraud.
  6. Establish a Quality Rating System for Medicaid Plans, based on quality factors including clinical effectiveness, patient safety, care coordination, prevention, member experience, plan efficiency, affordability, and management.
  7. Strengthen encounter data submissions from managed care plans to states, and from states to CMS.
  8. Allow Long-Term Care Beneficiaries to change plans or cancel enrollment and move to standard Medicaid coverage if their preferred providers are out of the managed care networks.

The Verden Group applauds these much-needed reforms. The proposed rule will provide greater access for Managed Medicaid beneficiaries located in rural areas, especially for at-risk children enrolled in CHIP. With greater transparency and provider choice, patients will be able to select plans that include practices that have differentiated themselves through innovative and high quality programs.

The two trade groups representing insurers, America’s Health Insurance Plans and Medicaid Health Plans of America, are generally supportive of the regulatory modernization and the thrust of CMS’ proposals, except for the national 85% minimum MLR. However, there is little evidence to suggest it will negatively impact their profits as many states already mandate MLR requirements.

The Verden Group is concerned the MLR mandate may create difficulties for not-for-profit safety-net insurers, which usually cover large numbers of Medicaid beneficiaries with serious and chronic health issues. These plans have profit margins that vary year over year, meaning a large profit surplus one year could be needed to offset significant losses in another year. In addition, state Medicaid agencies may not have enough resources to implement the proposed regulations. As with all regulations, it is important that sufficient resources are provided to ensure the proposed rule does not become an unfunded mandate where the fiscal responsibility falls to those it is intended to help.

The Verden Group encourages our clients to share their thoughts on the proposed rule by commenting publicly at:

https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection before the deadline of July 27, 2015.

 

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