CMS on Jan. 6 released a 360-page proposed rule largely aimed at increasing Medicare Advantage plan accountability and strengthening beneficiary protections, particularly for patients who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. As the first major MA and Part D rulemaking under the Biden administration, the proposed rule would reinstate several policies that were unwound by the Trump administration, such as the return of detailed reporting medical loss ratio (MLR) requirements and provider network reviews for new and expanding MA plans.
The proposed rule, Medicare Program; Contract Year 2023 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs (87 Fed. Reg. 1842, Jan. 12, 2022), also revisits a Trump-era plan to reform pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) — a topic that has long been a thorn in the side of community pharmacies. Specifically, CMS proposed to include all pharmacy price concessions — removing an exception for those that cannot be reasonably determined — at the point of sale in the definition of “negotiated price,” which is the primary basis for determining a beneficiary’s cost of obtaining a Part D covered drug.
For our annual series of forward-looking articles, AIS Health recently featured the perspectives of multiple industry experts on what Medicare Advantage stakeholders will be focusing on in 2022. For a follow-up installment, we asked several health plan leaders to share how their respective organizations will be innovating this year to meet aging members’ needs, advance health equity and address social determinants of health (SDOH) amid the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic emphasized how our most daunting challenge — reaching our members in a new remote, digital-first landscape — remains our most compelling opportunity. Delivering home-based care to our nearly 10 million Medicare members and equipping them with the resources they need to age in place are central to our 2022 agenda,” says Jamie Sharp, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of Aetna Medicare, a CVS Health company.
States are moving to better address social determinants of health (SDOH) and improve health equity in their Medicaid programs, and they’re asking MCOs to drive the change, according to an analysis of recent requests for proposals (RFPs) from advocacy group Together for Better Medicaid. The report identified RFPs from 10 states that have extensive SDOH and equity-based requirements for MCOs, from member screenings and staff training to close collaboration with community-based organizations (CBOs). Meanwhile, Medicaid enrollment has surged in all 10 states amid the COVID-19 pandemic. National Medicaid enrollment climbed 18.4% from March 2020 to December 2021, according to AIS’s Directory of Health Plans. See an overview of the most common SDOH requirements and the 10 states’ recent enrollment patterns below.
Following up on its October 2021 “Third Party Marketing” memorandum warning of misleading tactics by some organizations, CMS in its latest Medicare Advantage and Part D proposed rule said it believes “additional regulatory oversight” is needed to protect beneficiaries from “bad actors” in this space. The agency observed that an increase in third-party marketing activities in recent years has been accompanied by a rise in marketing-related complaints from beneficiaries, such as those who do not understand how an agent or broker obtained their information.
While previous guidance and rules have focused more on MA organizations’ relationships with agents and brokers, the new proposed rule serves to address the prevalence of lead-generating entities that may not directly contract with MAOs but qualify as first tier, downstream or related entities (FDRs), explains Helaine Fingold, a partner in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice at the law firm Epstein, Becker & Green, P.C.
In a highly anticipated but not-so-surprising move, CMS on Jan. 11 released a proposed National Coverage Determination (NCD) that would restrict Medicare coverage of Biogen and Eisai, Co., Ltd.’s Aduhelm (aducanumab-avwa) and any other FDA-approved monoclonal antibodies that target beta amyloid plaque for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Industry experts say the coverage proposal — coupled with a recent price cut on Aduhelm — is unlikely to alter commercial payers’ hesitancy toward covering the drug, while one actuary says the decision supports Medicare Advantage plans’ expectations that coverage would be limited.
According to the proposed NCD, which is now open to a 30-day comment period, Medicare would cover the therapies under Coverage with Evidence Development (CED), requiring that patients be enrolled in approved randomized controlled trials that are conducted in a hospital-based outpatient setting. Participants must have a “clinical diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to AD or mild AD dementia; and evidence of amyloid pathology consistent with AD.” The NCD also would allow coverage of one beta amyloid positron emission tomography (PET) scan per patient as part of the protocol.
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